Six Things I Learned Road Tripping with Kids

I love a good road trip. Always have.

In college we used to load up in whoever’s car seemed most reliable to drive 450 miles for a football game. Some friends and I once drove from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans for Mardi Gras hoping we would run into some friends of ours so we could crash in their hotel room (do as I say, kids, not as a did!) And my husband (fiancé at the time) and I once drove from The Keys to New York after our Year 2000 New Year’s celebration.

Yes, I am hard-core.

And I’ve raised my kids to be road warriors as well. At two and a half months old, I drove my twins from Connecticut to Chicago, nursing at rest areas, being diaper changed on the passenger seat, and most importantly, learning that one should always stay in the right lane when not passing or you’ll have a crazy lady in a minivan giving you the evil eye.

We’ve had some pretty long road trips, but the one we took last month took the cake. 2,100 miles, 13 days, four stops, three kids, and one bad mamma jamma.

It was joy, bedlam and insanity all rolled up into one minivan. I learned a lot about my kids on this trip…what they are capable of, what they can tolerate and yes, even the power of their small bodies in even smaller spaces. Here’s a few of my favorites:

Kids will talk if they have absolutely nothing to do. After four movies, two hours on the iPad, a game of license plate bingo and eating everything in the snack bag, someone decided to start an actual conversation. With words and everything. It started with books and then evolved to a riveting discussion (led by me) on how the new Girl Meets World show on Disney was based on a show I watched when I was younger (apparently that was unbelievable.) And somewhere in between we talked about how I met their father, why I decided to leave my job, and how nobody could hurt them without their consent. We talked, and I mean really talked, for more than an hour. I’m not sure if we had ever done that before. It was pretty cool.

Girls can be gross. Let’s just say that after nine hours in a car with three children, at some point someone will either be tooting, burping, snorting, spitting, sneezing, wiping or picking.  I know this because as one child is doing these things, there is another one reporting on it. In tremendous detail because I obviously couldn’t get the full effect by watching it in the rear-view mirror or hearing and smelling it a full twelve inches behind me.

+ Always, and I mean always, ask if anyone needs to pee when passing a rest area. Because my kids are older, I thought  if I didn’t bring up the rest area every time we passed one, then they would forget about the allure of these luxurious potties. Big mistake. Huge. It took the third time of one of my daughters telling me they had to go to the bathroom as we drove by the rest area to get it, with one time my pulling over to the side of the road to let her “cop a squat.” Rookie mistake.

Earphones are God’s gifts to moms. Leave it to say that Frozen made a reappearance this road trip. Several times. If I didn’t have Pandora and my ear buds, I might have just “Let it Go” on my three kids and it wouldn’t have been pretty.

road trip

Never underestimate what can set off a back seat riot. Fights I threatened to pull off the road for included (but not limited to): whether to watch a movie in full screen or regular screen; how loud someone was chewing their pretzel sticks; humming while listening to an iPod; yawning too loudly; using the wrong “world” in Minecraft; and my personal favorite, the fact that (according to one of my daughters) one of her sisters’ heads is so big that it got in the way of her seeing the hot air balloon outside the window. Fortunately no one got hurt, either by me or by each other.

You can teach fine dining on a road trip. The drive through 9 states taught the girls that there is an entire world beyond Mickey D’s and Subway (although that is primarily where we ate.) Skyline Chili, Bob’s Big Boy, Fazoli’s, Steak ‘n Shake, Catfish Kitchen, Chong’s and good old WaWa’s were all potential eating joints for us, just to name a few. It was fun to talk about the restaurants, their regional appeal, and the times I have (sadly) eaten at every single one of these one time or another.

I’m not going to lie, there were some rough moments — but it was so worth it. We had exponentially more laughter than tears, more joy than annoyance, more love than fights.

And yes, I would even do it all over again. Just give me a year or so to recoup.


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