Anatomy of a Family Road Trip

We did it. And we survived. There was bickering, there was yelling, but there was also learning, and loving, and living together as a family of five in a small hotel room in the middle of a strange city. 

There was no beach, there was no pool, there were no roller coasters, or characters dancing around in mouse costumes. It was actually quite warm, but that was more a case of luck than good planning. This wasn’t like our other family vacations. We were tourists. Tourists on a road trip. 

No winging it. It’s not in my DNA to be impulsive and actually enact a fantastic seat of your pants type of plan. I’m a strict itinerary person. If every stop, every meal, isn’t outlined beforehand, there is usually a melt down, and most often it’s mine. I just want to make the most of our valuable holiday time. 

Where did we go, you ask? Before we even imagine embarking on Gull’s ideological optimistic dream of a European family adventure, I thought we’d start small. We visited our Nation’s Capital. A mere 5 hours away by car. 

There will be a scrapbook. There will be a photo album. There will be treasured (and some already lost) souvenirs. But here are some of the memorable trinkets I brought home with me. 

  • History

How much can young children learn when they’re not at school? How much will they open their minds when you tear them away from their iPad screens? More than you’d think. While I couldn’t expect them to memorize and recite the Declaration in its entirety, they learned the meaning of words they had never thought about like Freedom and Patriotism. They learned about some of our more formative presidents and their legacies. They paid homage to our heritage.

Learning about Lincoln on the very weekend he was assasinated

  • Curiosity

We fed their minds like we tend to feed their sweettooths (is it in in fact sweet teeth?). They wanted to know more about war, so we showed them the memorials. My whiney kids didn’t complain during a 4 hour walking tour of the monuments. Sparrow didn’t ask for endless snacks, didn’t make a peep about the blister forming on his big toe. Finch didn’t pick his nails or crack his neck in boredom as he does in the outfield. Instead, they lapped at the heels of our knowledgeable guide as he spouted off unknown facts and tidbits about each site. They wanted more more more!

  • Trust

Not all of our history is rainbows and butterflies (as would be Lark’s preference). But we gave them a taste of some of our darker days, and they were mature enough to handle it. They felt sad when they lived through the tale of a young boy in the Holocaust, and they were reflective as they stared at the thousands of names on Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial. They took time out from the teasing and taunting; instead they accepted the gravity of the subject matter, and they felt it in their little bones.

Finch staring at the thousands of lives lost in Vietnam 

  • Culture

We walked through many neighborhoods, we saw people of different shapes, sizes, languages. We tried some different foods, but thankfully all cultures have accepted the delicacy that is chicken fingers. We saw a lot of poverty and they wanted to help. We saw large crowds protesting and they wanted to join. We learned acceptance and appreciation of beliefs and beings. 

  • Tantrums

Lark reminded us that she is only three at least once a day. And her tantrums were epic. Dragging your screaming daughter down the street as she clings to your leg but won’t let you pick her up is a humbling experience, until she eats something and her hanger fades away. Sitting smooshed in the back seat of a cab in rush hour traffic with 2 needling, nagging, annoying brothers is maddening, until they both pass out cold from exhaustion. In these moments I wondered why we brought this upon ourselves, but these memories will likely not be the ones we recall years down the road. 

  • Flexibility

I generally like to stick to the script. All the research, the mapping, the timing is great until you realize it’s just too much for your crew. So did we go out of order to make it to some of our visits? Did we pick a different place for lunch? Did we have to- gulp- wait in a long line to see the room where Lincoln died (on the actually died he died coincidentally)? Did we leave the 4 hour tour 3 hours in because the dirty, pooped out kids just asked for a break? Yes, we did. And did I beat myself up for it? No, I gave myself a little break and it turns out that laid back didn’t look so bad on me!

  • Gratitude

The best compliment I might get ever receive is Finch telling me I planned a really good trip. He knew it took time and research to put it together and to get it right. And he thanked me. I too am thankful that we have this time together to grow and learn and explore as a family unit. Gull says maybe someday, he’ll plan a trip for us. But then he reconsiders and says it won’t happen because I do too good of a job myself. I sigh and act dismayed, but I’m thankful he executes my itineraries and plans and goes along for the ride with me. Every day.
So, where are we off to next?


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