Facing Down Your Fears in Front of Your Kids
After a fabulous two-week vacation on the Alabama Gulf Coast, I wondered why I don’t take my kids down there by myself more often. I was already looking forward to going back for our next trip.
I had my car loaded to come home by 9 am on Friday but had a few stops to make before we got on the road. I stopped by the grocery store to get a few items that aren’t carried locally and to get diapers for my two-year-old. Sadie has been potty trained for several months, but when we travel long distances I put her in a diaper just in case.
By the time we finished our errands it was close to lunch time and my kids were starving. I stopped for lunch and gas and I started to get nervous. We weren’t really even out of town yet, and we still had over five hours to drive. Five hours in O’Bryant Road Trip Time is more like eight hours. Especially because my husband wasn't with us, every time we had to stop for one person to go to the bathroom, everyone had to get out.
I hate driving through Mobile, Alabama. I hate it with every fiber of my being. Mainly because I detest driving over open water. I do not like bridges. I especially do not like driving over them with my kids in the car. And would you like to know what I like even less than bridges? Tunnels. I do not want to drive over large bodies of water and I certainly don’t want to drive under them.
In Mobile, after driving over the Bayway, eight miles of bridge over open water, you then get to drive through the tunnel under the Mobile Bay. On a good day this is hard for me to deal with. I’m a big girl and I do what I have to do, but I don’t like it. My husband has tried repeatedly to explain the engineering behind bridges and tunnels and how they work and why they are safe. And I don’t care. I still don’t like it.
But on this day I had already been in the car with my kids for three hours, and we had made three stops. I had taken all three of them into a public restroom twice. Because it is not possible for all of my children to empty their bladders at the same time. Which meant on two occasions I had the pleasure of having many and multiple panic attacks while they balanced on public restroom toilets by putting their hands all over the seats.
Normally, I grit my teeth, try not to think about it and haul butt over whatever bridge I have to drive across. But after three fun-filled hours, I was driving as quickly as the law would allow when I saw a detour sign on the Bayway. The tunnel was closed due to a wreck and traffic was backed up for miles.
I put my car in park, on a bridge with open water as far as I could see, and tried not to cry. At precisely that moment, my newly potty trained two-year-old spoke up, “Momma, I meed to poo-poo wight now!”
Before I could even respond my six-year-old chimed in, “I need to go to the bathroom, too!”
So I cried. I sat in the middle of that ginormous bridge in the middle of the flipping Bay and sniffled like a baby. Had we been stopped on the roadway, I would have pulled into the grass and let my kids use the restroom in the woods. But there was nowhere for them to go so we sat on the bridge for an entire, fun-filled hour. Did I mention that we were on a bridge? In the middle of water? And that I do not like this? We were only 60 miles from our starting point and it was two o’clock in the afternoon. If you're not good at math, that's 60 miles in about six hours.
The girls were starting to get ill with each other and although I had kept my crying to myself while we sat there, when Emma asked, “Are we almost there, Momma?” I started hiccuping I was crying so hard.
We finally made it off the bridge and around the detour the closed tunnel had caused. All three girls were yelling that they had to use the bathroom, and I stopped at the first place I saw. I unloaded my passengers and shoved Emma’s shoes on the wrong feet while her sisters hopped back and forth on the sidewalk doing the pee-pee dance.
We were in the bathroom when my mother called my cell phone, “Are you almost there?”
Whatever composure I had gathered in the car crumbled and I sobbed into the phone, “WE’RE STILL IN MOBILE!”
My kids quit fighting over the automatic hand-dryer and turned to gape at me. Aubrey, my sweet six-year-old, patted me on the back and took charge of her sisters. “Come on,” she told them, “Mommy is having a really bad day and we need to be good.” She grabbed her sisters’ hands and opened the bathroom door. The woman waiting for us to come out watched bewildered as my six-year-old consoled me and led us through the gas station.
“Come on Momma, let’s get in the car. Sadie don’t touch anything! We’ll be really good, won’t we Emma?”
Emma nodded, I sniffed and followed them to the car.
The rest of the trip was long but uneventful. We did actually average more than ten miles per hour, but the next time I make that trip by myself with my three kids, Aubrey’s going to be driving.
**According to my seester who lives nearby, there was a truck stuck in the tunnel. HOW does this happen pray tell? How can you drive into a tunnel and not realize that you won't fit?? Do you have any idea what would have become of me and my children had we been stuck in the tunnel behind this truck? UNDER WATER (practically.) I get light-headed just thinking about it.
It's a good thing I now know how to detour around the tunnel because I don't think I'll ever be able to drive through it again knowing that someone in front of me could get stuck.
What's your least favorite thing about road tripping with kids? Favorite thing?
Robin O'Bryant: Humorist, Ninja Momma, and creator of Robin's Chicks