Highway to .. heaven?
Over the years I’ve done a lot of road trips with my step-daughter, son, nieces and nephews. When Grandma’s house is just 4 hours away and it comes with a pool, and a bunch of additional cousins to play with; it’s becomes our monthly get-away. And for me, there is nothing so restful as waking up in the morning to endless coffee with half and half with my mom. I love an afternoon walk with my sister around the local park, and a big family dinner that everyone collaborates to prepare.
Let’s Hit the Road
But before we get there, we have to get there. Recently, my nieces and nephew prefer to ride with me on these road trips, even if their own parents are coming. Their reasoning is two-fold. Primarily, because I buy them Happy Meals. I’m not afraid to admit it. They are affordable, they make them happy, and there is no confusion or time wasted perusing the menu. Also, there may be a low grade latte involved for me in one stop, because we are NOT stopping again. Secondly, because we listen to music in my car (their mom is usually not up for that).
On the radio – o – o
But all is not as they wish, exactly. On my road trips, there are no devices allowed. No Nintendo, no TikTok. Yes, we listen to music, but we listen together. And we only listen to the radio.
There is no song selection from an endless supply of streaming music.
No painstaking decision on what to play.
No arguments over who is picking the song.
The radio is what it’s about on a road trip for me. I force them to enjoy the pursuit of a good, or even tolerable song. I force them to scan through foreign language stations, worship music, and news through the remote roads and decide what the best of the options are. It teaches them to appreciate what’s available, and to get extra excited when they hear a song they really love. I love hearing them say “I haven’t heard this song in forever!” excitedly.. or even “this song has come on 3 times already this trip!” It is great to hear them sing along and as we do, I point out the pretty fingernail moon or a pasture of horses or cows. I love it even more when they point them out first, because I know they are learning to appreciate the scenery, or the changes in the scenery as they exclaim that the hills are now green or the almond trees have finally started to bloom.
Wondering and Wandering
Sometimes if I’m lucky, they start to wonder. “Auntie, what makes a bad word bad? Like who decides when a certain word is bad when it just means the same thing as another word that isn’t so bad?” An excellent question for a Linguistics major, which I am. But I have no answers. “Mom, how do you make Cheetos?” I have less than a clue. Even so, it’s good to wonder and research and ponder together. The kids have talked about classmates they thought were not-so-nice and why they might be that way. There are stories about kids who became nicer later and what that taught them. They have discussed what “bullying” is compared to just doing something mean in the moment. Talks about death and dying and birth and rebirth. They have had some pretty interesting ideas and ponderings, and it has made me so proud.
Sometimes they will ask me for the “questions” specifically. I used to do “questions” at dinner sometimes too, on request. I would ask each of them daily things like “What was the best part of your day today”, or opinion things like “Would you rather live near a lake or an ocean?” Their reasoning is the best. When asked if she would rather be a famous artist or a famous singer, my niece chose artist because if she was a singer she would probably have to go on tour. But if she was an artist, she could just stay home with her mom. When asked whether she would rather drive an airplane or a helicopter, she said helicopter. It’s smaller so she figures there are fewer things that could go wrong and cause a crash. I love hearing their thoughts and their reasoning, it has taught me so much about them.
Everyone is not Perfect
Sometimes it’s so boring, it’s either silence or sleep. Silence is letting their mind wander and who knows what is happening in there. I know it’s more rare for them than it was for me as a child. Letting your mind wander is a good thing. Sometimes, oftentimes, it’s bickering and arguing over elbow room or floor space or pillows.
And, every once in a while, it’s just a random comment that comes out that reminds me that all the little conversations on these trips and elsewhere are sinking in. It’s me exclaiming I had forgotten to pack something, and my son saying, “It’s okay, Mom, everyone is not perfect.” That, to me, is so fitting. Even the imperfect way he said the phrase, seemed more accurate than the original “no one is perfect”. “Everyone is not perfect”. Everyone is imperfect. It highlights that truth of the collective. Everyone, and everything, including our road trips are imperfect. Scrambled radio stations, McDonalds that don’t carry fancy coffee drinks, gas stations with no bathrooms… but this is life, and these kids are learning to deal with those imperfections with grace and ease. I’m hoping my road trips are a proof and continuation of that lesson.