"The real voyage of Discovery lies not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes"
Marcel Proust

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Kids Say the Darndest Things On Road Trips

The first week of July 2013 is gone. For some this means that summer vacation is half over. It’s the crest of the hill before rolling towards Christmas. Hopefully most are still enjoying some fun in the sun. For some, this may even be the eve of a family road trip. Some families are triple-checking that they packed their swimming trunks, cancelled the newspaper, and that their children have charged all of their electronic entertainment for the drive. Ah, the glare of hand-held electronic screens has dimmed the games of counting farm animals and playing license plate poker.

I have just come home from a youth mission trip to Benton Harbor, Michigan where none of the teens were allowed to take electronic devices. Poor kids were subjected to my I-55 mile marker stories from our “Traveling Through Illinois” book. It wasn’t through my devious plans that this all happened. The big boss of the youth leaders relayed that kids should take the 9.5 hours to talk and get to know one another.

I was lucky to get the vehicle full of boys. Little boys can be loud in their imaginary play which always includes sound effects of something blowing up, imploding, exploding, or blasting off, while little girls do quiet tea parties. But, age does something to the vocal chords of teens that has nothing to do with puberty. I could see the carload of girls ahead of me. Arms were waving, bodies were swaying, ( I think the entire van was shaking ) and the male youth leader who was driving their vehicle stumbled out at our first stop to gas up the car. Dazed, he mumbled something about a headache.

Long road trips usually offer a few funny comments uttered at just the right level of silence. Those are some of the most memorable moments of the drive. As the boys and I crossed over the Mississippi River from Missouri to Illinois on Highway 36 at Hannibal, I shared one of these funny comments uttered by my daughter who was in the chatty girl vehicle ahead of us.

My family traveled Highway 36 across Missouri about 3 times a year to see family in Illinois. Every time we crossed the bridge over the Mississippi River in Hannibal, we’d point it out to our daughter, Rose, and name it, hoping we could teach her some geography along the way. On one trip across the Mighty Missi-sip, when she was around 4 years old, I once again announced in my best Chevy Chase voice, “Here comes the bridge! We’re about to cross the Mississippi River!” Everything went quiet for a moment in the van as Rose’s unspoken thoughts hung in the air, and then she said, “Mom, why isn’t there a Mr. Issippi?” It took me a minute to get it and then she said that it wasn’t fair to have a Miss Issippi and not a Mr. Issippi. What an equal rights kind of girl!

This little tyke grew up to be a teenager. Just recently she said to me, “When I get a car someday I’m going to buy a (VW) Bug so I can drive by and watch people punch each other.” I am almost too embarrassed to share this story.

The whole “Are we there yet?” phrase springs from the fact that kids have a hard time gauging time. In fact, one story of travel and sense of time (not the same as time travel) is when my younger daughter had no concept of time (or she was just too giddy from finding out we were going on a trip.) On opening a fortune cookie that revealed we’d be going to Disney World just after New Year’s, she blurted out in happy excitement, “Are we gonna stay overnight??”

If you’re traveling with young kids this summer don’t forget to take the baby book, a journal, or a pen and paper. You might just capture some of those darndest things that your kids say as they first see the Grand Canyon, cruise past a wind farm, or find bizarre creatures in the clouds outside the window. Enjoy the ride!