Oh, the Places You’ll Go: Lessons from the Road

So much of parenthood is impossibly edifying—not the least of which involves taking interminable road trips with one’s brood. That said, I harvested volumes of information in the first ten days of August while traveling over hill and dale (read: EIGHT HUNDRED FIFTY-SEVEN MILES) through four states and the District of Columbia with kids in tow. If nothing else, the event was memorable—and, as I might have mentioned, wholly instructive.

What follows is an assemblage of cynical keen observations I made as we wended our way to and from various points of interest—the main purpose of which was to ravenously consume all manner of fascinating information in museums and whatnot, to relax on the shores of the Atlantic for a time and to reconnect as a family. Never mind that I felt the overwhelming desire to climb atop the roof of our hideously overloaded Jeep (which promised both solitude and serenity) more times than I’d care to admit. But I digress.

Lesson #1:  Occasionally the man I married (heretofore known as the Keeper of All Things Unnecessary and/or Captain Vacation) is actually right. Not only does he possess an uncanny knack for cramming more suitcases, sand buckets and breakfast cereal within the confines of a seven-passenger SUV than I previously considered possible, he also, apparently, can produce a fairly impressive number of essentials upon demand—things that I, stupidly, assumed we’d never need. Like bricks of jack cheese and a behemoth-sized jar of creamy peanut butter, a vat of aloe vera and the cushiest toilet paper in all the world. What’s more, he cleverly stowed away a functional nightlight, enough batteries for six people and legions upon legions of anti-boredom devices for Thing One and Thing Two. As if ennui would rear its ugly head on vacation. That’s just crazy talk.

Lesson #2:  Children will retain for future reference each and every snippet of colorful language (i.e. the entirety of shameless tirades, wholly inspired by road rage and the prevalence of idiot drivers), no matter how short-lived, inadvertent or completely warranted said utterances happen to have been. And despite a parent’s Herculean efforts to retrieve from the atmosphere what he or she shouldn’t have said, the point is largely moot. Fortunately, kids can and will dispense astonishingly sage advice in such instances: “Dad, it’s in the past now…it’s history. Move on.”

Lesson #3: Unless the gods are smiling, accord will not be reached with respect to radio stations for the duration of one’s trip. Youths will, however, become delirious with joy when they discover that a Michael Jackson CD has been purchased specifically for the occasion and clandestinely loaded into the player. After a dozen titles we continued to hear, “Wow, Dad! It must be Michael Jackson Day!! This station keeps playing his songs!!” Lesson #3A: Contrary to popular belief, parents don’t actually implode upon listening to Thriller 17 times in succession. Lesson #3B: Children don’t actually implode upon listening to their dads sing.

Lesson #4:  The number of pit stops a typical family of four will make on an excursion of the sort depicted above is directly proportional to the number of times someone demands to know if we’re there yet. Additionally, the license plate game, when played ad infinitum, can and will lead to threats of bodily harm. (i.e. “I’m going to make a HOOD ORNAMENT out of you if you even think of mentioning another cussed state…”) Furthermore, the frequency with which marital discord will erupt over frenzied searches for toll booth coinage and/or edible food is equivalent to the number of wrong turns lovely detours on any given journey.

Lesson #5:  Children will be completely mesmerized by that which they witness—to include goat sightings, roadkill (in various stages of decomposition), exceedingly inappropriate bumper stickers (which they will then feel compelled to read aloud) and a host of billboards that, among other things, inspire people to eat pickles. Seriously.

Lesson #6:  GPS navigation devices (i.e. the lady in the little box who talks to Dad and tells him where to go) will likely terrify children who stare at the screen in horror as the road appears to have been completely swallowed by water (i.e. as we pass through the largest bridge-tunnel in the world—one that spans 17 miles across the Chesapeake Bay). Distractions are golden in such instances: “Let’s estimate how many dolphins are pooping right now!”

Lesson #7:  Kids are duly fascinated by the notion that “GPS Lady knows exactly where we are!”, eventually morphing into Navigation Police—calling attention to the disturbing frequency with which “she” was right over the course of one’s vacation. Oy.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (glad to be back in Billtown). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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1 Comment

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One response to “Oh, the Places You’ll Go: Lessons from the Road

  1. Do your “lovely detours” frequently contain the same large city ghetto areas that our trips often did? To quote my sage youngest, “We’re gonna’ die!” And, the middle ever-practical daughter, “Lock the doors, quick!” Never travel to Philadelphia via the Sure-Kill expressway in a van with children.