I think most parents will agree that there are good travel days with kids, and bad travel days. Some trips go so smoothly you want to pinch yourself: your kids entertain themselves nicely in the backseat, barely argue, and you and your spouse manage to have some good chunks of meaningful (or not even meaningful) conversation along the way. It's so great to have older kids, you tell yourself, remembering those painful trips from years ago when you had to contort your body in extreme ways in order to nurse your unhappy infant while she was still buckled into the car seat.
But then there are those road trips that just don't go as well. On the way up to Maryland on Friday nothing went right for L. from the minute we left. The car was too cold; no, too hot. He couldn't get his MP3 player to work. The laptop crashed. He wanted T. to be absolutely silent. Her doll was too close to his seat. Her sandwich smelled. He wanted a charger cord from the back of the car and wouldn't rest until we pulled off some country road to look for it. Then it didn't work. When we finally pulled up to my brother's house at 10:30 that night I couldn't get out of the van fast enough.
On the way back on Sunday both kids were exhausted from late nights and too much excitement. While I would have given anything for someone to strap me into a car seat with a good book and a soft pillow, neither T. nor L. wanted anything much to do with that. I still think there is little more painful and frazzling then being stuck in a car in highway traffic with fighting/whining/unhappy children while you spend your time--contorted, of course--over the back of your seat while you try and do damage control.
There were moments, I confess, when I wondered to myself (and perhaps at one point out loud, I'm afraid to say) whether or not it really was worth it. All the wear and tear for a whirlwind weekend--travel on Saturday, then one day, then travel back; school on Monday for L., exhausted parents at the start of the week, was it really worth it?
Of course it was. I got to see my brother and sister and their families, and spend some time with all of them again, after what felt like a long, long summer away. We had the privilege of witnessing a marriage, and being a part of something big and importantl. Despite the trials and tribulations of the getting there part I have yet to experience travel so bad that it wiped out the good parts. Sandwiched in between the painful rides this weekend were many wonderful moments--the moments I know we'll remember long after the headaches, and spent nerves have faded away. In the end the getting there part isn't always the important part at all; it's what happens when you get there--that's the stuff of memories, what you hold onto, long after the trip is done, and you find yourselves back home again.