Lessons Learned on a Cross Country Road Trip
As some of you may know, I recently came back from a five-week long road trip across the country. It was wonderful and exhausting, and now that I’ve had some time to recharge I wanted to share with you all just a few of the things I’ve learned. And while they’re all road-trip related, I think they might come in handy other times, as well!
Vomit happens. It isn’t fun in the moment, just after, or even a week after when the smell has baked into your car as you speed across desert after desert. BUT…it is entirely possible to still have a wonderful trip nonetheless! Clean things up as best you can and keep moving—the only thing you’ll regret is if you let is stop you.
Embracing chaos is essential to mental health. No matter how well you have planned and packed and organized, somehow entropy will accelerate in the back seat of a car. This means any games, art supplies, or other back-seat activities will end up in a muddled puddle that oozes over the feet of your children and eliminates any leg room they may have had. Simply embracing this as inevitable opens up space to appreciate other things you would otherwise miss, such as the majestic and awe-inspiring view outside your window.
Simply listening to your child(ren) play will give you deep insights into their world. I was amazed time and time again at how intricate the twins’ play has become, and the issues they are tackling with it. One of our current themes is where babies come from (more on that later!). It fascinates me how they are working through this very complicated and adult-oriented topic.
Taking the time to listen to your kid(s) lets you know exactly what language you use with them. Sitting in the front of the car, I didn’t have much to do besides listen to the kids play, really. And I was very happy with about 90% of what I heard—there were words and phrases in there that I knew had come directly from my mouth, and my kids had integrated my speech patterns into their own. I also found myself cringing about 10% of the time at some of the words they’d use with each other, or with their dolls and stuffies. It was an excellent way to check in with my own parenting choices. I have a better idea of what I’m doing that I like, and which things to focus on that I’d like to change.
Mindful “sips” are awesome. Doing a regular meditative practice was next to impossible when we were constantly shifting states, time zones, and places to sleep. Routine, which is my fall back for all things discipline (internal and external), was right out. What we were able to do instead was to take frequent little “sips” of mindfulness throughout our days. Whether we were in the car and passing by some particularly awe-inspiring scenery, or stopped at a roadside attraction of some kind, I found it much easier to stop, take a breath, and share that beauty with the kids. “Oh, my. Take a moment and notice this little flower. Isn’t it lovely? Let’s all take three deep breaths and really appreciate it.” And as odd as it sounds, the more I practiced that the easier it became for me to appreciate those little moments AND I have heard the kids on several occasions saying and doing something similar.
We are thankful for our wonderful adventures and our extraordinary luck in being able to take such a huge chunk of the summer to go and explore our part of the globe. And we are just as thankful to be back in our little community, reconnect with friends, and see what adventures our own back yard brings us! As summer draws to a close, I wish each of you lots of listening, minimal vomit, and daily sips of beauty and mindfulness.