The longest road trip we've taken Garrett on was down to Brian Head this past winter. The drive was approximately three and a half hours. On Sunday we will embark on an eight hour trip that I am sure will turn into ten or twelve given all the toddler stops we'll have to make. I'm just going to go right out there and say, "Thank goodness he's in diapers." Still, he'll need to stretch those chubby little legs and release energy at some point. Or several. And, well, diapers only hold so much. I've got toddler CDs packed. I've got a bucket filled with toys. I even went to the dollar store and bought him several new toys to award him with for every couple of hours that he doesn't make me tell Troy to let me out of the vehicle immediately. I'm sure there will be moments in which I would rather traipse through the Nevada desert than listen to the incessant whining that is sure to accompany our drive.
I've even got our portable DVD player. Gasp! Let me first explain to you that my husband and I (and my brother who has, by now, collapsed into spasms on the floor of his room at the sheer horror of my questionable parenting) are not keen on televisions in cars. Kids get plenty of TV time these days and they can learn, just like we did, to buck up, quit their sniveling, and look out the window. HOWEVER. We have decided that DVD players, in the car, on a long trip--and only on a long trip--might be acceptable if the time is limited to, say, one movie. The rest of the time the kid can find other ways to occupy himself. The problem with a barely two-year-old entertaining himself is that he can't read. He can't play travel board games. He can't even play slug bug and, given the fact that he has no siblings, he'd be slugging us. So I'm pretty okay with his inability to distinguish a Volkswagon from an SUV. So, given the relative lack of things Garrett can actually do to keep himself entertained, we've decided to bring the player and take up an hour and a half with Finding Nemo--his new obsession. On another note, it dawned on me that Jon and I used to have Gameboys that we stuck our faces into for hours on end. This isn't really any different than watching a DVD. But don't worry. It would still take getting struck by lightning to make me use road trip television as a pacifier.
Anyway, this got me thinking about my brother before I digressed into a dissertation on the finer points of looking out the window. We were accustomed to road trips, he and I. Unfortunately, as little people, my brother slept in the car and I did not. Could not. There was always something to see or do or read. That, coupled with the shaking backseat, did not bode well for sleep. Why was the back seat shaking you ask? Because my brother banged his head against it in his sleep. Repeatedly. Bang. Bang. Bang. Constantly. And I wasn't allowed to whack him to make it stop or, heaven forbid, to gently shake him. It was how he pacified himself and I needed to deal with it. I might still have some underlying agression.
One trip to Tahoe, however, my brother wasn't sleeping. He was being annoying. I'm sure he was annoying on all of our road trips but this time he was being a real brat. Older siblings are controlling and bossy, bullies even. Younger siblings are annoying. Our hatchback was full to the brim with vacation equipment--enough to keep us clothed and entertained in Tahoe for a week or two. It was so full that one of the oars to our raft was sticking down the middle of the car, between my head and my brother's annoying one. I suppose I was about six at the time. My mom always had us pack a big plastic crate full of toys, books, games, etc--we didn't have Gameboys yet--and it rode in the center, between us.
The more miles that passed us by the more my brother irritated me. In true, big sister fashion, I picked back. Probably. I'd like to think I was minding my own business and being a general delight but I'll give my brother the benefit of the doubt. He doesn't deserve it, really. We are talking about the same kid who used to hit himself until he had a red mark and then blame me. Of course, in fairness to my parents, if you hit your brother enough, your mom is just going to assume you did it one more time. Anyway, he was being OBNOXIOUS. I turned around, rummaged in the back, found a towel and draped it over the handle of the oar. Then I rearranged our toy basket so that his were all on one side and mine were all on the other. Then I informed him, in no uncertain terms that if I so much as saw his hand creep onto my side, he was risking dismemberment.
My parents thought it was pretty smart thinking for a wee one and I'll tell you, the sheer fact that I couldn't see him over there, breathing the same air as me, made for a much better ride. You see, if we'd been riveted to a television for 12 hours, we wouldn't have had any reason to problem solve our own detestation and general loathing of each other. We like each other now. In fact, I would have been devastated if he'd been unable to meet us at the lake this year because I've never been there without him and never really want to find out what that's like. So even if, at the time, you're sitting in the front seat thinking about how you might kill those kids behind you--the ones egging each other on--remember that the family who road trips together stays together. Or something. I plan on reminding myself of this very thing when my toddler's whining is forcing me to claw the window.