We have enjoyed (or endured) our fair share of road trips in our time. The most notable was our 7000km round trip across the Nullarbor Plain, from Melbourne to Perth and back again. At the time Deflector was 7, Actor 5, Captain Clumsy 4 and Princess 2. People thought we were mad, but actually it was awesome. We loved every second of that trip. To this day we talk about how incredible it was. Apart from the boys needing a wee stop every 100km it was a joyous drive. Mostly because they hadn’t learned how to argue yet. When siblings learn how to argue with each other, you might as well resign yourself to the fact that you are never going to enjoy a road trip ever again. And I do mean never.again.
First thing – pack the car. Even a reasonably casual Sunday drive in the hills requires packing of provisions. My husband and I used to jump in the car with nothing but ourselves and our freedom. Not anymore.
We need wipes, drinks, food, toys, spare clothes, more food, books, a few sanity reserves packed within easy reach, some technological bribery for extra long drives, and… more food.
We all get in the car. I count heads in the rear-view mirror. One missing. CC. We are always waiting for CC. Without exception he makes us wait every.single.time.
Everybody In? Yes.
Ready to Go? Yes
Got everything? Yes
We turn out of our street and CC says “I need to wee.”
We turn out of our estate and Deflector says “I’m starving, when can we eat?”
We drive out of our suburb and Actor asks “Are we nearly there?”
We enter the Freeway and Princess squeals “I forgot my teddy…and my book!”
It doesn’t take long for 4 caged energetic kids to get bored. With the absence of movement, eating or technology, they very quickly descend into chaos.
At first we try to distract them,
“Look over there”
“Isn’t the scenery lovely?”
“See if you can spot any kangaroos”
“Count the cows”
There is no such thing as quiet reflection. No peaceful awareness of our beautiful country. Not so much as one second of quiet calm. As much as my husband and I want to look out the window at the magnificent snow capped mountains, or pretty fern gullies in absolute blissful mind numbing silence, we know there is no hope.
We try to get them to appreciate the world around them.
They just want to torture each other.
Cars can, and do, transform reasonably good kids into feral little monsters.
‘Mum! He’s touching me!’
‘Don’t look at me’
‘That’s my window, look out your own window.’
‘Give it back!’
‘Stay on your side’
They tease, they spar, they taunt, they bicker, the gloat, the moan, they persecute each other.
We alternate the arguments with games. We play eye spy, we play car cricket, we sing until I can’t stand it anymore.
I wish for a magic soundproof partition between the front and the rear of our people mover, ala` limousine style.
I count to ten. I try to breathe. I am Zen. I am ZEN Goddamn it!
And then all of a sudden, three quarters of the way in, our road trip turns from ‘The Journey Is The Destination’ to ‘Destination Home. Right Now. I cannot stand it. Everyone Shut Up’.
Yes, I tell my kids to Shut Up. Let the judgement commence.
Why then, when it seems no-one is having any fun, do we insist on doing this to ourselves over and over again? Why do we continue to cage our children in the car for 7 hours in an attempt at family connectedness?
There are gems amongst the rubble.
When Actor does something silly and we all dissolve into breath stealing laughter.
When we stop for lunch and CC takes Princess’ hand as they walk and pick wildflowers.
The looks on their little faces when they proudly present me with those flowers.
When Princess sings the wrong lyrics. “The ants are my friends; they’re blowing in the wind. The ants they are blowing in the wind”
When Deflector puts his arms around my neck and says ‘Thanks for the drive Mum; and the sandwiches, that was awesome.”
Before long these gems are the only parts of the trip you remember. Which I am certain, is the reason why we all have such fond memories of our trip across the Nullarbor. It doesn’t matter that Mummy and Daddy get to the end of the day wanting to kill someone, because road trips are like childbirth. They are long, arduous and incredibly painful, but in the end we only remember the good.
And that’s just how I like it.