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Just The Notes

Parenting Tip #606: The Road Not Yet Traveled

I'm taking a family road trip this summer. Our first vacation as a threesome.

I’m taking a family road trip this summer. Our first vacation as a threesome.

I’m not sure where we’ll go, or what we’ll do when we get there, but I know it will involve a large chunk of time in the car.

The idea of the family road trip is stuck in my head. Many influential movies and books from childhood involved families on cross country excursions.

Specifically, National Lampoon’s Vacation and “Hooples on the Highway.”

You’ve likely heard of the first but are absolutely clueless on the second.

The trip to Wally World. The quest for a father to create the perfect family vacation en route to the Valhalla of family fun – a theme park dedicated to their favorite fictional TV character – Marty Moose.

Much like real life, everything goes to shit almost in an instant. Wrong turns, dead relatives, and heaven on Earth closed for repair upon arrival.

“Sorry folks. Moose outside should have told ya. Park is closed.”

Back then, I identified most with Rusty. Now, I’m obviously Clark.

Yet as parents, we get our hopes up.

Everyone will have fun.

Everyone will get along.

We’ll talk about this trip for the rest of our lives.

“DID YOU HEAR ME! EVERYONE IS HAVING FUN!!!”

As if our attitudes and the way we deal with one another magically dissipates in line of Space Mountain.

I’ve watched “Vacation” hundreds of times.

I started and finished Hooples on the Highway on a drive to and from the Jersey shore. I couldn’t tell you one damn thing about the book except that the Hooples’ journey mirrored that of the Griswolds. Anything that could go wrong, did.

I’m ready for the chaos.

I’m not a prepper. I’m a reactor. I know how to bring enough items I just don’t always pack the right stuff.

“We need suntan lotion? Damn. I didn’t think of that. I did bring plenty of foot powder and old issues of Esquire.”

When I was married, the ex-wife did a bulk of the vacation planning. She booked our Walt Disney World vacation down to the bowel movements.

“Why are you pooping?!? We don’t have time! We have to meet Donald Duck in 5 minutes!!”

I’m terrible at traveling solo and bringing every item I might need, and I’m incredibly clueless on how to pack for two young kids besides DEVICES.

“Do we have the devices? Are the devices charged? Do we have the chargers for those chargers? Is WiFi in the car a thing that’s possible?!?”

I assume a person gets better with packing once they travel more frequently.

My last excursion was San Antonio for the Dad2.0 conference. I was unprepared.

On one trip to a tropical destination I forgot to pack all of my t-shirts. An entire stack left on the dresser.

On another vacation, I failed to put a single bathing suit in my suitcase. I made a list of items to pack yet forgot to write on the top to READ THE F*CKING LIST!

Do I have any destinations in mind? Nope.

When you don’t travel often, every location sounds exciting.

My standard explanation to why I don’t travel out of the country more often is the fact that I haven’t seen everything this country has to offer. Hell, I’ve yet to witness everything my home state has to offer.

There are bucket list states – Colorado, Oregon, unexplored parts of California and Texas – and places that I probably don’t even realize I’m missing out on.

“Most of the country is boring as shit,” I’ve been told but numerous people.

Neverending stretches of highway with nothing to stare at but the rapidly growing collection of dead bugs on the windshield and snack wrappers in the back seat.

I like to experience something for myself before I decide it sucks.

And those places seem too far to drive with young kids, and I’m just not sure I’ve packed enough foot powder.

As a kid, I hated extensive car rides. The farthest destination my family ever ventured in a car was the southernmost tip of New Jersey, a journey that took, at most, two hours.

Two hours that felt like two years.

Two years trapped in the backseat with nothing but the magazines and books I’d read a hundred times, cassettes worn out from overplaying, and nothing but time to count passing trees and pretend the car behind ours on the highway was chasing us to eventually murder the entire family.

Even armed with all this knowledge, for some unexplainable reason, the family road trip is a goal.

It could be the idea of trapping us all in close quarters for long periods since we don’t get to see each other much during the week.

Even if we’re inhabiting the same space, our minds travel to our own worlds. I’ll get engrossed in work and deadlines, The Kid spends hours building meticulous LEGO structures, and The Girl turns everyday household items into works of art.

Luckily, I have time to plan this trip to I don’t know where. The third week of August it will be just the three of us.

No work. No summer camp. No school, or sports, or drum or dance lessons or obligations.

Just him, and her, and me, and a packed trunk and stacks of old Esquires.

The destination is irrelevant.

It’s not the being there, it’s the getting there.

Together.

parenting tip #606

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