If you want to experience a special kind of hell, akin to repeatedly stabbing yourself in the eye with a sharp object, I highly recommend taking two small children on a road trip by yourself. And by road trip, I mean at LEAST six hours. We’re overachievers here in the Clark household, so the trip I just took Harrison and Ella on was nine hours one way.
We managed to convince my parents to move to our town a few years ago, so we haven’t had to make this trip much in recent history. However, my aunt still lives in my hometown, so off we went. It’s been over a week and I am still exhausted. Here are some highlights.
Fun Fact #1: Even though your GPS says the trip will take you seven hours, this is not the case. I was considering suing for false advertising, but then I realized that my GPS does not have children, thus preventing it from knowing the incessant need to pee that is unique only to pregnant women and recently potty-trained toddlers. Since I am not pregnant, this one goes to Ella. I’d be less annoyed about this one except for the fact that Ella is really just fascinated with the locks on public bathrooms, and she likes to check each one out to see how they all work. Most of the time there is no peeing, because after all, I’m not a complete idiot and I put that kid in a pull-up if we’re going to be in the car for more than an hour. The bathroom breaks did not solely contribute to the extra two hours we spent traveling though. The traffic was insane through Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. My aunt believes that there are no real houses in Massachusetts; rather, people just drive around on the turnpike. After my recent experience, I might have to agree with her.
Fun Fact #2 DVD players in minivans were designed with the assumption that A) Your children can use a remote control from the back seat (which includes reading the screen) or B) You are incredibly skilled at multitasking and can drive and operate the DVD player (which you cannot see, of course) all by yourself. For the life of me I could not get DVDs to play without having to pull over the car and go through ALLLL the previews. This may have lead to another reason we tacked on two extra hours to our trip. Either way, design fail for my minivan DVD player. Mama cannot be the driver and the entertainment manager at the same time.
Fun Fact #3: Although your five year old managed to stay awake for 9/10 of the trip, he still will not be tired when you finally arrive at midnight. I was about to collapse into an abyss of sleep for hours, but my children were running around like crazy people the minute we got out of the car. It’s like they sat all day or something…
The lack of sleeping did not end at the first night. As a matter of fact, neither child stayed in their bed for an entire night even once on our trip. I even brought their mattresses with us so they would feel more at home. Apparently sleeping with at least one body part on my head at all times was preferable. This is most likely why I am still tired.
The kids really did enjoy the trip. We saw friends and family and we visited places I used to frequent as a child. There were some rainy days where we were kind of at a loss for things to do, though, which brings me to Fun Fact #4: If your kids are throwers of temper tantrums, they put on extra dramatic shows when you’re far away from home and out of your comfort zone. Considering my aunt lives in a retirement community where it is generally quiet, I was concerned that someone was going to call child protective services with all of the screaming going on. We did not get reported for abuse (taking away legos) but those retired people did report me for something else.
Fun Fact #5: You can be as loud as you want, but you MAY NOT speed in the retirement community. Apparently a concerned resident went to the community center with a complaint that a “woman with Maine license plates was zooming down the road”. Guilty as charged. I WAS going seventeen miles per hour down the 10 MPH road. I think maybe this particular resident has forgotten how incredibly painful it is to ride in a car with small children. Had he remembered, he would not have been surprised, and perhaps would have shown some pity for me, since I was obviously just trying to get the hell out of that car.
Speeding was not the only vehicular violation that we committed while at Retirement Estates…but this next one was NOT my fault. My aunt and I decided we’d let the children play outside early one morning, as they were clearly feeling a little cooped up in the house. Ella decided she wanted to go get some things from the car and I acquiesced. I know she likes to push buttons, which sometimes resets the controls I have in my car, but there were lots of toys in there from my feeble attempt to keep the kids entertained on the ride. I figured this might be a good way to get some of that junk cleaned out. Sitting quietly on the couch, enjoying the peace while Aunt Marylou looked over the children from the front porch, I was suddenly startled out of my two minute reverie by my car alarm. You guys, I could not find the keys anywhere. It was like I was frozen. After several minutes of looking I ran outside with the key fob and feverishly pushed buttons until the jarring alarm finally silenced.
Knowing I would not be able to relax after that fiasco, I decided to hop in the shower and get ready for the day. I figured it would be a good time to get out of the neighborhood for a while as well, because clearly we were being a disruption. Just as I finished conditioning my hair, I heard that damn car alarm again. This time, though, I was in the shower, naked (because that’s how it works), and in a town that is not mine with neighbors who do not know me, and already the culprit of so many other transgressions that I really did not want to add streaking to the list. I found a towel that I can only hope covered me enough, ran outside, and pushed all the key buttons once again. Dripping wet and very angry, I directed my children inside so that, if they possibly could cause any more chaos, they could do it under my watchful eye.
Fun Fact #6 (or 7, I’ve lost count): In Elmira, where we were visiting, there is a maximum security prison. They do not take reservations. I was thinking a few days in solitary would be good for me, but alas, speeding and disrupting the peace are not quite the kinds of crimes they serve.
We are back in Maine, safe and sound. We may never leave the state again. At the very least, I need to recover from THAT trip. Kids have lunch with Uncle John.