While in Indiana, I had lunch with a friend who shared her recent realization that 5 days is the perfect (read, maximum) amount of days one should travel with kids. She may be on to something because ‘the one thing I know for sure’ (to borrow from Oprah) is that traveling with kids for 2 weeks and 3 days is far too long for anyone to be left with a shred of sanity.
The roadtrip to Indiana had gone remarkably well. Perhaps because we were fresh. Eagerly anticipating reunions with family and friends. Curious to see the vast expanse of land that is Saskatchewan and North Dakota.
The return trip (or Screamfest ’09 as Mr. Johnson has dubbed it) went less well. There’s nothing like driving along I-94 in North Dakota – which is nearly as flat as Saskatchewan but greener – while listening to your 21 month old wail his head off, accompanied by the muted sounds of the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song to make you think: I am living the life.
The thing about kids that ‘people’ fail to mention is they are the providers of both profound joy…and profound the-opposite-of-joy. I mean, what can be better than looking back into your beige minivan and watching your oldest giggling like nobody’s business about some ‘crazy’ Veggietales shenanigans; or lovingly doling out cheetos and cheerios to his baby brother? Or watching your littlest man hit himself with a pen repeatedly while saying ‘ow’.
It’s a thing of beauty.
And what can be worse than having a very brief stopover in the lovely Minneapolis, Minnesota (land of 10,000 tears NOT lakes); bursting with excitement about all the fun the kids will have, only to have every single member of the sick and sleep-deprived family wake up in a rotten mood and ultimately collapse in their own lake of tears?
You say ‘lovely breakfast at a local coffee shop’ and I’ll counter with ‘oldest kid moaning about not feeling well and lying on a chair, littlest kid welping about orange juice and a straw, refusing to eat his $2 muffin, and husband huffing in a chair about not being able to find a good deal on a hotel in North Dakota.’ Note to North Dakota….why so averse to the priceline concept? I shouldn’t have to pay more to stay in a small town Comfort Inn than a big city upscale hotel. It’s just wrong.
You say ‘enjoyable stroll at the Farmer’s Market’ and I say ‘oldest son crying uncontrollably about something (can’t remember what), no cash or ATM in sight, and mother ticked off at her offspring who are turning what should have been a beautiful day into a miserable one.’
You say ‘family stroll through the sculpture garden’ and I say ‘youngest son loses it completely after being escorted away from the Cherry and the Spoon sculpture..throwing a tantrum of such massive proportions that people everywhere (unabashedly) turn to stare at us. A tantrum so vile it escalated even in the privacy of our van while father and oldest son were dilly dallying at the swing sculpture.’
You say ‘yummy cinnamon rolls at Isles Bun and Coffee’ and I say ‘cash situation still unresolved; mother implodes and tries to run away from her family… unsuccessfully.’
You say ‘lovely stroll through Whole Foods to pick up supplies for the roadtrip’ I say ‘oldest son sitting in the cart playing on the green recorder his uncle and aunt very kindly bought for their youngest nephew. Nothing makes people look at you like the sight and sound of a 5 year old sitting in a grocery cart playing on a recorder.’
It was the kind of day that made me wish I was one of the cute single people lying on towels at Lake Calhoun Beach, reading trashy novels while wearing tiny swimsuits; baking themselves into a red-brown shade of purple. Instead of standing ankle deep in nasty water looking like a whale in a white shirt, with a couple of pasty white blondies suffering from various degrees of unhappiness.
It was the kind of day that made me wish my husband and children would drive off to Canada and leave me behind, taking my wallet and all forms of identification with them, so I could start a new, secret double life and end up on Unsolved Mysteries.
But that wasn’t the case. Instead we climbed back into the van and drove to Bismarck and, the following day, to Calgary; arriving at our adopted home around 11pm. Shellshocked (parents) and hoarse (children – from screaming).
Will we do it again? Probably. But not for another year. Or so.