When my daughter was five, we began a tradition that continues to this day. She called them “The Martin Family Traveler Trips.” As a single mom who was blessed to have the same holidays and summer vacation as her daughter, we relished our times together.
Sometimes, though, we (or more accurately, I) would be struck by cabin fever and just need to get out. Money was tight, always, so big vacations were out of the question. But little day trips? Perfect.
We’d load up the Dodge Neon with snacks and drinks, and Katy would fill up the rest of the space with blankets, paper and pencil, and enough
dolls babies to staff a world summit. Then I’d start driving.
Katy would choose the direction. Not only did this reinforce the concepts of “left” and “right,” but also taught her the value of observing her surroundings, patience, and looking for just the right moment. At first, her directions would come quickly, and we’d make endless loops just around our neighborhood. But as she grew, and learned to wait, we’d head farther and farther afield, and the rewards were great.
At some point during the trip, she’d give in to her sleepiness and nap for several hours. (A reward for me, at the time. A few hours of quiet is a luxury for any parent.)
We still do these trips when our schedules allow, only now we take turns driving and snoozing in the passenger seat. But sometimes I head out on my own, music blaring. Ryan Kelly’s Live for Life is the perfect song for a road trip, as are most of the songs on Byrne & Kelly’s albums.
When writer’s block hits me, or I’m struggling through some issue I may not even be able to name yet, driving with no particular destination in mind is therapeutic. The wide open roads allow for careful daydreaming, and introspection. The unfamiliar scenery prompts new scenes, or better descriptors for a current scene. The scary, tight turns of the two-lane roads through the mountain passes gives me a different place to focus all my energy, which provides respite from whatever I’m working on. Especially when the road looks like this:
What I’ve learned from our Martin Family Traveler Trips:
- Fill up your tank before you go. Whether that’s a practical thing, like with fuel (you’ve never known fear until your gauge reads “empty”, and your car is at the top of a two-lane, pitch-black road, with ten miles before the next station). Or with snacks (isn’t life much better with snacks?) Or with the gift of the Spirit that provides refreshments of a whole ‘nother sort.
- It’s the journey, not the destination. I know–a trite saying. But it’s true. The only caveat is that if you’ve got a five-year-old on the journey with you, make sure to hit the bathrooms as often as possible. (And for the love of God, don’t forget Baby Jennifer (Katy’s favorite doll) in that restroom.)
- Don’t force it. Our trips were a fairly equal measure of talkative five year old, road trip games, and quiet moments. Granted, most of the quiet moments were when Katy was sleeping, but still.
- Enjoy each other. Katy gets her sense of humor from me, but her vocabulary is entirely her own. Some of my favorite moments from the trips we took are when she’d play school with her babies, and listening to her teach the dolls their lessons. She’d tell them, “I’m going to show you the next letter, and you’ll learn it by my own gracious will.” She cracked me up–still does.
- The best moments in life aren’t planned. Discovering a fun little store, or an awe-inspiring vista, or having the gift of your child making up a song from her journey–all gems from allowing my child to choose our path.
There are so many things in life that you must choose for your child, at least at the beginning. Giving her or him this one freedom, and responsibility, is incredibly rewarding.
I’d love to hear about any trips you’ve taken, and any lessons you’ve learned. Please feel free to comment below.
Great. Writing this post has gotten that song of hers stuck in my head. Thanks, Katy. Well, to share the love, I’m going to post it below.
Flexibilly ruler, flexibilly ruler,
Riding around in a limousine.
No trespassing, ke-ep out,
Yep. Love that kid. And you’re welcome.