The memory of visiting my grandparents is still fond in my head. We would pack in the car and travel the winding and mountainous Route 81 from Maryland to Pennsylvania. My parents would throw my brother and I in the back of the pickup (with a camper top) make sure we had plenty of blankets, pillows and toys and off we would go on our 4 road trip. After trying to get 18 wheelers to honk became boring we would eventually end up fighting with each other to the point that my dad would pull over on the side of the road and threaten to make us ride on the roof. This was long before cell phones, hand held video games, DVD players, laptops and mp3 players and as children we were pretty much left to our recognizance. The only thing that was better back then was that parents could take these road trips with kids without buckling them snuggly into the confining 5 point harnesses and restrictive booster seats. Pretty soon we will be outfitting them in steel helmets as well.

In this day and age, road trips with kids should be a breeze. We have every technological device that should easily keep our kids entertained for hours. Vans come fully equipped with everything but a sound proof glass barrier between the driver and passenger seats. Yet still, taking car trips is one of the things I dread most. Even the trip to school in the morning can be a stressful concoction of fighting and yelling that makes me want to steer off into the deepest ravine I can find. So what, if anything could make this more fun?

Comically speaking the best way to take road trips with our children would be to allow someone else to drive them while we follow. Either that or put them on a bus or plane and meet them at the destination. Since neither of those are workable the best solution is to try and see things from our children’s point of view, plan accordingly and be willing to exercise lots and lots of patience.

It is my personal preference to schedule departure for any long road trips at night – when the kids may actually sleep a bit. This ensures that between their waking and sleeping they will actually feel like they are making progress. They might fall asleep in one state and wake up in another and it allows less opportunity for the “are we there yet,” “how far have we gone,” “how much longer,’ and “I need to go.” If night time travel is not doable then just accepting the fact that you will have to stop many times will make things less stressful.

When my children need to “go” my husband will encourage them to wait just a little longer. He keeps doing so until they threaten to pee in the car. He tries to schedule stops in his head alone, and every time we go anywhere it’s as if he is trying to break a record. I try to tell him that this makes the trip even more stressful and that if we just took our time we may arrive an hour later, but with our nerves still in tact. He accuses me of wanting to stop at every place that looks interesting – which I do….but isn’t that the point of travel? In either case, a happy medium needs to be met. When it seems that all the passengers have had enough it is time to get out of the car for a while and regroup. There is no harm in that. Keep in mind also, that the little kids are forced to wear the burdening buckles that inhibit their mobility extensively and it is unreasonable to expect them to sit that still for so long. When we were young we were just as impatient but we were allowed to move about the car. Older kids should have enough gadgets to keep them busy – but those things too are certain to fail to do so. When all hope seems lost one of the best things to do is to start singing.

Lately taking road trips with the kids I have begun to become sadly aware that it won’t be long before the kids won’t want to go anywhere with me at all. They are growing up so fast and some are even big enough now to sit in the front seat riding shotgun. So far they aren’t embarrassed to be with mom and dad and that is worth putting up with a little of the fighting. There will come a point when the family road trips will be a source of fond memories for my children just like they are for me. My husband and I will probably sit back and chuckle as we listen to the way our kids recall them. They may not remember where we were going or even where we went; but they will be remembering that we were together. The road trips with the kids, however frustrating always serve to forge the bonds of family and force a togetherness that is often hard to come by anywhere else but in the car.


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