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Challenge: Traveling with Kids

What I Learned From a Road Trip With My Four-Year-Old

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A few weeks ago, I took a trip with my four-year-old daughter. I was attending a work event in my hometown and amidst #coronavirus concerns, opted to take the 6 1/2 hour car ride over the one-hour flight. Familiar with my 19-month old son, I knew that he couldn't be trusted on this journey, but I brought my daughter so she could spend the weekend with her grandparents and cousins.

And we're off.

I plug in my phone and settle in to listen to my Jessica Simpson audiobook as my daughter announces that her movie isn't working.

PRO TIP: Don't just purchase a movie-make sure it DOWNLOADS before you leave the house.

I ignore her announcement until she reminds me that she wants to use my phone to watch YouTube and "this is not good sharing." Jessica will have to wait.

Aside from the epic iPad fail on my part, and given the 2 1/2 hour nap sent from God in heaven, our trip out was pretty uneventful. . . the return trip was anything but.

Blinded by an 18 wheeler a mere 30 minutes into our journey, I couldn’t see an exit sign. I took the wrong one and ended up in the middle of a dessert wasteland (ok, fine. Cornfields. So much corn). Just then, my daughter announces that she has to poop.

PRO TIP: Get one of these.

Ten minutes of instructing her to "hold on!" later, we found ourselves flying through the door of a remote gas station bathroom where she plopped her little butt down on a public restroom toilet before I could get a seat cover on it. I fainted to the ground. I am revived with laughter when she announces that this was a false alarm- "just a toot."

Upon returning to the car, I pick up the bag containing my Starbucks wrap by the wrong end and it falls to the floor board.

I proceed to make a right out of the gas station (per genius GPS instruction), drive one mile, make another right and then one more right. I am back at the exact location where I started and can see the freeway on-ramp. Should've made a left.

An hour or so ticks by and my daughter has reported roughly seven injuries from the back seat. "She needs some bandaids," 'this is taking a long time" and she "doesn't like Ohio."

We trudge on...

Next, there was a menstrual incident that I will spare you the details of, but let’s just say that we had another stop.

After a couple of shared-stall bathroom experiences, my daughter has some questions about what's happening to mommy and I find myself giving her a talk that felt about 10 years premature.

Upon leaving the bathroom, she announces to a lovely Amish family that “some people have blood and it’s OK."

I cringe. But also, man, I love this kid.


We're back on the road and she's hitting musical notes so high that it’s remarkable that we arrive with our windshield still intact.

There are a handful more bathroom stops and she's calling the play-by-play for everyone in earshot. At Panera, "nothing was coming out." At Exxon, everyone in the ladies room learned that there were “three poops”.

She's doing pretty solid, so I decide to reward her with an ice cream cone.


After three licks of ice cream, she announces that she just wants to eat the cone and I perform a precise decapitation of the ice cream into a plastic bag and hand her back the cone. "Good job, Mommy."

Our six hour trip ended up closer to nine.

As I turn right into our neighborhood, I glance back. She sleeps. Now, she sleeps.

I flashback to a recent Hallmark commercial that broke my soul and reflect upon this stage of our lives- the paradox of wanting her to be more independent while wishing that she would never grow up.

What I learned after road-tripping with my four year old is that this moment is fleeting. I'm gonna want it back. But she won't. Soon, she'll choose her cell phone over mine, a road trip with her girlfriends over a trip with her mom to see our extended family. This won't last.

Soak it up. Breathe it in. Time is moving.

I wipe a tear from my eye and open the back door to retrieve my little girl.

"Wake up, baby. We're home."

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