Toddlers take to long car rides like they do naptime. Sometimes they go right along with it, and I feel that I can, in fact, hear their inner-monalogue saying, “Yes, I really am tired, Mommy…thank you so much for laying me down to sleep.” Other days, it’s a 10 minute meltdown of screaming until they fall dead asleep in between sobs. Although there’s no way to be sure what kind of attitude I’m going to deal with at naptime each day, one thing is assured…there will be naptime. For Mommy’s sanity and everyone else’s…naptime or bust.
Long car rides are the same way. There’s inevitably going to be one in order to get to ‘vacation.’ Which, for us, is 5 to 6 hours North on the Upper West Coast of Michigan. Sometimes they handle it well, watching movies, reading books, and sleeping all the way there. Other times, I spend more time turned around dishing out snacks and orders than I do buckled up.
It may or may not help that in our house, we build up vacations long before they actually roll around. Vacation Dance included. (yep, we have one.) So when it comes time to get in the car and literally go on vacation, everyone is wired. The most recent journey? Our trek “Up North” to Charlevoix to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary. Capped off by a boat ride over to Mackinac Island, where we got married…and just so happens to be a ball for the kids (must have something to do with no cars allowed…only horses…), so we decided to take them along with us.
This year, my four year old had us questioning that decision very early on in the drive. She is starting to put the pieces together on how long it takes to get there. The first, “MOM…this is taking too long,” coming out of her mouth when we hit Toledo.
My younger daughter, just shy of 2, caught up on half a lifetime’s worth of sleep on the drive. But not Brianne. We woke her up at 4:30 am to leave, and she closed her eyes for a max of 20 minutes the entire way there. As round two of “MOM. THIS IS TAKING TOO LOOOOONNNNGGGGG!!!” kicked in around Ann Arbor, I could almost hear my Dad laughing the ‘payback’ laugh.
When we finally got to Charlevoix, Brianne was so tired she couldn’t even react in excitement upon our arrival. Down on sleep on top of a long car ride equals a very whiny 4 year old. Having no sympathy for her was her younger sister, Lo, who was wired on sleep. A little push here, swipe a toy here, pull a little hair there….
“MOM!!!!! LAUREN IS ANTAGONIZING ME!!!!!!!”
I literally saw Lo push her with the force of a feather and send Brianne into a tearful meltdown…
Thankfully, my husband is a living trip ticket, and always has something on the ‘to-do’ list to rescue everyone’s mood. After driving through hours of rain and 17 million “THIS IS TAKING TOO LONG’S,” we were hiking through the woods and onto some hidden sand dunes off the coast of the beautifully blue Lake Michigan…under sunny skies.
Vacation Day 2: 4 year old trembling with a fever. One minute she’s smiling in her star sun glasses at the Memorial Day Parade, the next she’s trembling in 90 degree weather. Isn’t that just family vacationing? I sent Daddy to the beach with #2. Three hours later, after napping and a cold towel rotation via Mom, she was up and demanding to go to the beach and swing on her favorite swing.
Clearly still a little out of it (she refused to take her tennis shoes off on the beach), she had me push her on that swing for a long time.
“Thank you for pushing me on my favorite swing, Mommy. That’s all I wanted to do the whole time, is just swing on my favorite swing. I just very love this swing, Mommy.”
Shortly after, she was sacked out in her beach chair.
Hey, I’d rather be dealing with a sick, whiny toddler in Charlevoix, MI than in Huron, OH.
On Mackinac Island the last day, Brianne walked all the way up an enormous hill to the Grand Hotel all by herself. Not realizing what a big deal it was until we made it one, she insisted on taking little sister’s seat in the stroller the rest of the day. But in between complaints, impatience, and belly aches, we had a blast. Brunch at the 125 year old Grand Hotel, historical carriage ride, butterfly house, fudge samples, and of course…souvenir toy shopping.
Vacation is vacation. Whether the slightly tragic and maddening moments or the calm ones in between, these are the moments that will bond us together for life. They are the stories we will tell around the table at holidays, and to embarrass the girls when they are older. ( No, I would never do that…bah ha ha.)
I wouldn’t trade it. Not the whining in the car, not the overtired toddler, getting sick on the nicest beach day of vacation, demanding to be carried very long distances… Soon, they’ll be grown up and gone, and I won’t be able to put cold towels on their heads when they are sick…or pick them up and carry them when their feet are tired. Every moment with them is a gift.
With tears in my own eyes, I conquer. Through all the madness that is family vacationing, there are such magical bonds formed by the tests we endure together. Times of enchanting laughter that glues us closer together.
Even my 4 year old knows that although it seems to take too long to get there (Charlevoix), it goes by way too fast.
Happy Long Car Rides!