One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.
— Henry Miller
My earliest car trip memory is vomiting on my grandmother’s fur coat. (Sorry for that, Grandma. And sorry to everyone else for mentioning it.) I don’t remember where we were going, or why. In fact, the only other detail I remember about the incident is the sense of relief I felt afterward.
Grandma, not so much.
As I hinted in my previous post, we were a driving family, as opposed to a flying family. With four kids plus two adults, air travel didn’t really fit into the budget. So “Getting there is half the fun,” became something of a family mantra.
Not that we children believed it.
Our skepticism was rooted in experience. I remember a trip to Texas when our van began to overheat. Rather than gett stranded on a Texas highway in July, my parents switched the air-conditioning over to heat, pointed the vents out the windows, and soldiered on. Four sweaty kids in the back of a hot van, lumbering down the highway under a blistering July sun, may not approach Donner Party-level tribulation, but it was a grim few hours.
Hours, in truth, that I now remember fondly. No, it wasn’t “fun” — but we triumphed. We defeated the Texas sun and lived to drive another day.
It’s memories like these, blurred by passing time and space, that remind me why I want my kids to experience road trips — the good, the bad, and the overheated. There will be road work and traffic snarls. The weather will not always be fair. We may encounter difficulty and discomfort. But if we can stare down and survive our trials together on the roads of Texas, we are better prepared for doing so on the roads of Life.
That’s every parent’s hope, isn’t it? That the childhood we provide our kids will prepare them for the lives they’ll lead. But what good does it do if every moment of their childhood comes in neat-and-tidy packaging, without trouble, mishap, or disappointment? If every family trip plays out like a Disney Cruise commercial, what sort of expectations are we creating for our kids? Life is hard, even with the best preparation. And perhaps the best preparation we can give them is just that simple: Life is hard — and you can handle it.
It’s not enough for us to tell them, though. Our children need to see us wrestle with life’s circumstances. They need to watch us handle frustration, annoyance, and disappointment. They need to hear us ask our Father for wisdom and patience. They need to see us apologize, and ask for forgiveness when we mess up. Our children deserve to know their parents are sinners saved by grace, too!
5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
This is why road trips matter. They give our family an opportunity to experience God’s grace together — in unique ways we might miss by staying at home. Not every lesson can be learned within familiar territory. Sometimes it takes 40 years of wandering in the wilderness before we get the point. The same God who led, and taught, and disciplined the Israelites on their journey can also use our “wanderings” to bring us closer to Him, and to each other.
So how do we prepare ourselves?
It’s easier to end well when we start well. If our departure happens under a cloud of stress, aggravation, and bickering, it should come as no surprise that our kids are crabby, difficult passengers. We need to take a breath. Pray over our journey. Anticipate the adventure and our kids will, too.
Set the tone.
It’s worth pointing out that God sentenced the Israelites to 40 years of wandering because the parents complained. “We become what we behold.” If we grumble, so will they. If we bicker, they will, too. Parents set the tone.
One of my worst failings as a mother is a tendency to speak harshly to my children when I’m in a hurry. In the moment, it seems almost inconsequential. Until I hear my six-year-old repeat me, word and tone — and I cringe.
We become what we behold. So let us be worthy for our kids to behold.
Slow down and be flexible.
It’s tempting to consider “getting there” an irksome delay to the start of our “real” vacation. But we’re already out of the house, away from work, and with our loved ones. Why can’t the drive be part of the adventure?
So relax. The extra 10 minutes we might “save” by rushing pell-mell out the door, or needlessly hustling through a rest stop, takes a toll on our family harmony and peace-of-mind. It’s great to make “good time” — but it’s even better to make the time good.
And when — not if — something doesn’t go according to plan, we need to remember who’s “beholding” us. We can’t control traffic patterns, road conditions, or the idiosyncrasies of toddler digestion. But we can smile, and count to ten, and give thanks in all circumstances.
Let me close by stating (again) that I don’t have this all figured out. I write these things to encourage myself as much as others. In our humanity, none of us can be perfect parents. All we can do is focus on the One who is, give Him our best effort, and trust that He will make up the difference. Because He will.
God bless you on your travels,
View all posts in this series
- Rediscover the Road Trip Making Family Trips a Chance to Thrive, Not Just Survive - June 12, 2018
- Rediscover the Road Trip, Part 2 Getting There is Half the Fun - June 13, 2018
- Rediscover the Road Trip, Part 3 Share What Matters Most - June 20, 2018
- Rediscover the Road Trip, Part 4 Listen to Good Stuff - June 23, 2018