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Challenge: Summer Fun

The Family Vacation: Taking the circus on the road

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“Remember, kids, we’re having fun.” I overheard the high-pitched, semi-strained voice from another mother while on vacation last week and I couldn’t help but stare.

This woman...she was me. I was her.

“Isn’t this great?” she spoke factiously yet empathetically to me as she carried two children to the bathroom. This stranger was speaking in my native tongue, sarcasm. With my own kids in tow, one of which whose pee had trickled down her leg and onto my shirt, I quipped back, “It’s the best!”

We were both on family {gulp} vacations.

This summer has been unlike most summers in many, many ways. It’s deprived us of swimming pools and sleep away camp and birthday parties. But the one thing this summer couldn’t take from us was the iconic family vacation. And, due to the risk of exposure on an airplane, many of us resorted to the good, old fashion road trip for this year’s family vacation.

And, I’m sorry, but “good” feels like a bit of an overstatement. Is putting an entire family in a car and bringing their circus on the road really a good idea!? Does anyone actually have fun doing this? Let’s dissect this further.

The drive there (wherever there is)

Bliss! Bliss is how I would describe the first 17 minutes of the drive there. So hopeful! So happy! So damn naive.

Wherever there is must sound better than wherever you currently live. For my family, there is always Colorado. It’s an 8-10 hour drive, which is reasonable enough to make it sound easy. This is until you’re 6.5 hours in and you’re at your 4th gas station that conveniently only has port-o-potties, which may likely be the spawn of COVID-19. As a mother of toddlers, our stops are often and ugly. You can typically overhear me yelling, “Don’t touch anything! Don’t touch the toilet seat! Don’t touch that little trashcan! Just get out! Get out!!”

Conditions tend to deteriorate quickly after the first bathroom stop. Once the kids are back in the car, everyone realizes it isn’t getting any better until you get there so maybe fighting will help the situation. It’s flawed thinking but it’s worth a shot, right? This is how my husband and I ended up throwing profanities at each other at a truck stop in Colby, KS. No surprise it was spurred by a toddler covered in not one but two bodily fluids. People say we will miss these days but I have yet to see why.

The children typically follow suit and begin fighting themselves. Whether it is over lost markers, an accidentally shoved arm, a fowl smell they seek to blame on someone...the fighting always escalates. How could it not!? Several sleep deprived, emotional human beings strapped in a trashcan on wheels. It’s a recipe for disaster, er, I mean memories.


The arrival there

Alas, you arrive. And if you’re anything like us, trash tumbles out of the car as you do. Naturally, you shove it back in and close the door quickly. You. Are. There. This place could be anyway. The beach. The mountains. The campsite in the middle of BFE. It doesn’t matter because you are there. All your worries are gone. Fighting? What fighting? Everyone is best friends again because you have arrived. You’re tired, you’re sore, you’re dehydrated but it doesn’t matter because vacation has begun. Cheers!


The stay there

Did you blink or was that an eye twitch? Either way, you missed it. Hopefully one of your 1287 pictures will help you remember. Time to head home.


The drive home

It won’t be that bad you tell yourself. But you know that's a goddamn lie. You load up your top carrier, stuff the dirty clothes bag in the trunk and attempt to find room for all the useless souvenirs you purchased. (A $30 dinosaur hat, why not? Cowboy boots for the whole family, sure!)

All decencies have gone out the window by this point of the trip. The only goal for the day is to get home no matter what it takes. If someone needs anything, you better look quick because mama it throwing it back to you. Hungry? Catch some candy. Bored? Catch some candy. Tired? Close your sweet little eyes after you catch some candy. Who cares if someone gets a tummy ache and throws up? The vomit smell will barely resonate over the stench of spilled milk, fast food and a myriad of bodily odors.


Your car, at this point, is a traveling dumpster fire. It might as well be incinerated when you return home. Awe, home.

The arrival home

Bliss! Utter bliss. Why did we ever leave this place, you will wonder out loud. These floors, our dog, those shitty old couches, that milk we forgot to throw out before we we’ve missed you all!

While gladly unpacking and summiting a mountain of laundry, you may surprise yourself by thinking, “That was kind of fun. We should really do that again.”

Road trips, after all, are like childbirth. You magically forget the hardest parts (like the part of the trip on the road) and convince yourself to do it all over again in hopes of catching a few great memories with those you love most.


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