by Valerie Mann
Ah, the joys of traveling with young children. You plan, make lists, buy snacks, bring toys, calculate the routes with rest stops that have playgrounds, pray for good driving weather, even better vehicle health, and no delays. And like a really clumsy game of Jenga, one bad move and the jig is up.
I’m a planner. When I set my mind to it, I can plan to infinity and beyond. With five kids, three with ADHD and one with Aspergers, organization is my sanity. But the best laid plans of mice and Mom can’t factor in the unexpected during travel. For instance:
1. Enroute to North Carolina from Illinois, 1996. Daughter number two is lying in the back seat with her head in Daughter number one’s lap. Awww. Sister bonds are enduring. Not for these two. The only time Daughter Two would ever have her head in any type of compromising angle near Daughter One is if a guillotine were nearby and One is the executioner. Before I could consider what it all meant, One pipes up, “Why does Shannon have so much sand in her hair?” I’ll give you a single guess what the “sand” was. Uh huh, head lice. And we were nine hours from destination with bloodsucking critters who I was instantly convinced were crawling all over me. OMG
2. Remember that rest stop with the playground that the parents of active children covet? We stopped, made haste for the facilities and then Mommy got busy at the picnic table under the handy shelter, making a real June Cleaver lunch, complete with a freaking checkered tablecloth. Children are burning off steam, Mom’s getting all domestic and husband is walking the dog. Mom hears an ear-shattering scream, convincing her that an evil stranger is abducting her angels. Not even close. Son Two is standing in a ginormous mound of fire ants. He’s wearing sandals. He’s a little allergic to fire ants. OMG
3. Enroute to Orlando from Illinois, 1999. We’ve got us a convoy, with two vans and a five-year old nephew with a bladder the size of a shot glass. Daddy is getting cranky because Mom has to keep calling him on his Walkie Talkie to pull over at the next exit. Mom reacts negatively to the crankiness, speeds past Dad in a fit of rage and gets pulled over by the Georgia State Patrol. Nephew wets his pants because the nice officer can’t write that ticket fast enough. Big fine cuts into vacation money. Dad is even crankier. But at least he didn’t have to deal with the urine scent in the Georgia summer heat.
I’d always figured when the kids got older, all of this nonsense would go away. Um, no. Tomorrow we’ll make a nine-hour pilgrimage up the East Coast with two teenage boys in the backseat. One is already threatening mutiny through toxic boredom and the other has decided he’s going to stay awake for the next twenty-four hours, then take cold medicine and sleep the entire trip.
Wait…*slaps forehead*…why didn’t I think of that? Sleep deprivation and a bottle of Nyquil could have made my life so much easier oh those many years ago. The kid’s a genius! See June Cleaver replaced by Peg Bundy. Okay, so I won’t do the drug-induced coma thing. But the sleep deprivation route...this could work!