It's the Road Trip Destination, Okay?
“It’s the journey, not the destination.”
How many times have you heard those words as a parent? A lot, I bet. If you’re anything like me, I bet that you’ve muttered those words to yourself as you tried to get a toddler to go just about anywhere. I bet you’ve “journey-not-destinationed” yourself through homework or toilet training or the grocery store or sleeping through the night or any number of child-related milestones.
But you know? Sometimes, Zen as it is, that little “journey not destination” mantra can get, well, a wee bit onerous. Sometimes, having someone chirp at you that, “Oh, ha ha, you should just enjoy what’s happening right at this very moment because life with kids is all about the journey, not the destination” can make you feel like punching that person in the throat. It’s tantamount to saying that if you were just a better parent, a better person, you would truly embrace, say, your toddler’s insistence upon stopping to drop pebbles down every single sewer grating on the way home from daycare, thus turning a 10-minute walk into a 90-minute odyssey.
Because here’s the thing: sometimes, no matter how wonderful a person or a parent you are, it’s about the destination. Sometimes, sure, it's important to be here now. But sometimes, you just want to get there, already. Fast. And with as little screaming as possible.
Nowhere is this more true than on road trips with children.
So, let’s debunk this whole myth of “journey not destination,” shall we? Let’s put to rest once and for all that we are somehow lesser as parents if we feel on occasion that the less time spent in moving vehicles with our children the better. Let’s stop judging ourselves and each other by the degree to which we look forward to and enjoy strapping small, high-energy beings into five-point harnesses and hurtling off into traffic for hours. Because while there while there are undoubtedly lots of excellent things about road trips, there are also lots of rather tedious things.
Sure, there will be moments of pure beauty. You will see a pair of deer standing for a split second at the side of the road and your four-year-old will say, “Mommy, that deer looked right at me!” And you will say, “Yes, she did, honey.”
You will stop at a perfect beach for a picnic lunch and spend an hour skipping stones with your children, and one of them will lean back into your lap and look up at the sky and point out how that cloud looks just like a rabbit. Eating a Chihuahua.
You will prepare a cooler filled with fruit and vegetables and healthy snacks and your children will eat all of those fruits and vegetables and healthy snacks without complaining and you will sail right on by the fast-food chains, drinking tea out of your reusable travel mug, feeling smug virtuous.
You will bring E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web on a CD and your entire family will listen, entranced, to the entire story, and you will weep together at its ending.
You will bring a big pile of your own pillows and stack them between your children so that they cannot easily hit each other, and they will make little nests with those pillows and both fall asleep at the exact same time. And while they sleep, you will drive as fast and as far as possible, all the while talking to the other adult in the car and listening to — squee! — your own music on low.
But for all those times, and more, there will also be the times where the kids are too busy scratching at each other in the backseat to notice the scenery and when you go out of your way to visit the World’s Biggest Nickel they will refuse to get out of the car. They will eat only ice cream and deep-fried things for days on end and insist on listening to Diary of a Wimpy Kid or One Direction on repeat. They will clamor for electronic devices and grunt and not look up as you point out, say, the Grand Canyon. They will insist that they don’t need to pee during the rest stop and then have to pee the moment you pull onto the open freeway. The baby will scream unremittingly for the last half-hour of the day’s travels and then fall asleep as you pull into your hotel parking lot. And not one bit at night.
These things — and more — will happen. They are part of road trips. And no matter how good a parent or a person you are, there is no earthly reason you should enjoy those moments. During those moments, your job is to grit your teeth, stick on One Direction and toss your emergency stash of chocolate and the backseat, and drive as fast and as far as possible. Because you’ll get there eventually. I promise.
This post is part of BlogHer's Family Fun on Four Wheels editorial series, made possible by Mazda CX-9.