On the Road (Again)

Quite unlike the freedom-seeking spirit of Willie Nelson’s song, being “on the road” with children of any age is like being in a moving prison cell.  You have no personal space, the people around you appear threatening, and the food is terrible.  The only difference—that you can get out of the car at some point—is really just an illusory difference because when you get out of jail you are free, and when you get out of the car on a family vacation, your family IS STILL WITH YOU.

Because we live far away from both of our families, we have become experts on long-distance travel.  We have made at least 20 16-hour trips to the east coast, and have been flying to Germany with the boys since they were babies, several times while they were still nursing.  Trust me when I say that there are many miles under this mama’s belt.  So as a helpful service to others unfortunate enough blessed to be traveling with children, I’ve drawn up a little list of 10 Family Travel Tips:

  1. Don’t go.  Unless travel is absolutely necessary, stay home.
  2. If you must go, detach yourself completely from any hopes, expectations or goals about timing or mileage.  You’ll get there when you get there, which will feel like never.  Especially avoid phone calls from family members who ask “Where are you now?”  unless they are comfortable with the response, “In the third circle of Dante’s hell.”
  3. Do not waste money on “travel toys” or prepackaged “travel activities” for your children.  Remember, your goal is for them to require as little intervention from you as possible, and having to climb into the back to wipe off a “reusable drawing pad,” clean up an exploded gel pen, or dig around for a tiny truck that has fallen behind the seat is defeating your purpose.
  4. Celebrate technology that creates personal space, such as iPods, PSPs, DSs and other handheld electronic devices.  Curse with your last breath DVD players that will subject all passengers to repeated viewings of Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer, and/or any Wiggles movie ever made.
  5. Bring your own food.  Yes, it’s extra work and it takes up room in the car/van, but it saves time, money and car trash, and nothing will make you feel more disgusting than eating fast food for 2 days straight.  Also it will go some way towards decreasing your anti-American frustration that no matter where you are going, every single exit has exactly the same food choices.
  6. Do not agree to any “car game” that does not have a time limit.  Two years ago, Jacob decided to “quiz us” on the capitals, mottos and state flowers of ALL 50 STATES, and when he finally got to Wyoming he said, “You didn’t do very well on some of those.  I think we need to go back and review.”
  7. Discourage all questions, especially anything that needs to be repeated more than once.
  8. Announce, in a very loud voice and at three minute intervals, any time you are within 30 miles of a rest area.
  9. If any of the passengers are boys over the age of 12, bring OdorEaters Foot Spray.      
  10. And finally, do not comment on the attitude, body position, facial expressions, tone of voice, or driving habits of the other adult traveler.

Because we are in the process of packing, and because I really needed something to make me laugh, today’s poem doesn’t have that much to do with today’s post, except in the very broad sense that it views human limitations with humor, and seems to me to suggest that despite how absurd and paltry it often looks, doing the best we can is still doing the best we can.   It’s by David Moreau, from his book You Can Still Go to Hell and Other Truths About Being a Helping Professional.


How to Tell If You’re a Participant or a Staff (A Handy Guide for Day Programs)

If you have a bowel movement at work and no one records it in a
communication book — you’re a staff person.

If someone shouts at you from the other side of the room, Did you
wash your hands
? every time you come out of the bathroom — you’re a participant.

If your feet don’t quite touch the ground when you’re sitting in one of
the cafeteria chairs — you’re a participant.

If you know where the candy is in Jolene’s office — you’re a staff

If you can run out to Subway or Burger King for your lunch — you’re a staff person.

If you’re in a wheelchair — you’re a participant.

If you get a buzz cut every staff day — you’re a participant.

If you’ve never ridden in the back seat of the van — you’re a staff

If you can walk in the office without being asked, Where are you
supposed to be?
— you’re a staff person.

If the soap dispenser is on the side of the sink opposite your one good
hand and you can’t reach high enough to keep the automatic faucet
from getting your sleeve wet — you’re a participant.

If you can give a hug without someone telling you, Remember circles
you’re a staff person.

If you go out for cigarette breaks — you’re a staff person.

If your paycheck is for $1.82 — you’re a participant.

David Moreau

6 thoughts on “On the Road (Again)

Add yours

  1. Great list, Leslie. Thanks for the laugh today. My husband works with adults with developmental disabilites. He will love the poem. Safe travels.


  2. I love these! So funny and so true. Most of my travel nightmare stories (which are unfortunately true stories, not actual nightmares) come from the six-hour road trips I took with my girls to visit my parents in Michigan. The nightmare part is that I was a single mom, and they were 3 and 5 years old. Inevitably, right after we pulled away from a rest area and got going again, one of them would drop the most important piece of their toy, or manage to take the lid off their sippy cup. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I did it.

    Now that I’m remarried and we have three daughters, the most frustrating aspect of car travel is having one of the kids in the “way back” (third row), always trying to ask or tell you something, or wanting you to repeat every little thing you say because she “couldn’t hear you.” That scenario makes your points 7 and 8 really come alive. 🙂


  3. My son is traveling with his wife and very young son across the country to visit us in Maine. I will forward this to them; I especially liked the tip as well as quite accurate description regarding trying to find a tiny car, a broken gel pen and wiping the writing pad. These details are important and it is these small seemingly inconsequential little acts that drive us over the edge as a parent or staff person. Any ideas about little ones on planes?


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