Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Traveling With Children

In a few days I will be traveling north to attend my father's annual family reunion. My family is HUGE. I'm talking over one hundred people huge. We aren't really a family, we're a clan. My favorite thing about the reunion is  that I get to leave the molten hot valley of Las Vegas and visit the relative cool of the Utah mountains. I drive, but I really wish I could teleport. Taking a six year old on a road trip is pretty much equivalent to being force fed your own eyeballs. Road trips before I had a child were blissful. I could read a book, have in depth conversations with other adults, sit in silence and I could pack everything I could possibly need for a week in one small bag. This is simply not an option with a child. 

Allow me to elaborate. Before I gave birth to my heathen spawn, my husband and I planned spontaneous trips to romantic locales on a regular basis. We slept in as late as we wanted, ate where we wanted and visited attractions that didn't include some chick dressed up as a mouse or an arcade. One day we had the desire to eat breakfast at a restaurant we'd visited many times during our honeymoon in San Francisco. We decided to leave Friday afternoon and by Friday evening we were on the road. Twelve hours later we were in San Francisco. We got to the restaurant several hours before it opened and had no problem catching a few hours rest in our car in Golden Gate Park. We ate, visited Ghiradelli Square, got in the car and drove home. Every year my husband and I would disappear for a few days. We wouldn't tell anyone where we were going and turned off our cell phones to have a true get away.

This all changed when we had our daughter. Traveling now takes the same level of planning, packing, preparation and logistical support as the Normandy invasion of WWII. Every mile and every minute has to be carefully planned from the kid friendly destination and hotel, to preplanning a stop every two hours for potty breaks, to finding restaurants that serve the all important kids meal and packing every last article of clothing, toys, DVD player, DVDs, coloring books, games, the all important stuffed animal without which she will not sleep, granola bars, candy, chips, water, juice boxes, peanut butter, jelly, and bread (in case no restaurant can be found with the desired toy in the ever so important kids meal), travel pillow, blanket, Kids Bop  CD's, and a pony. With all these distractions you'd think a child would be entertained for eternity...and you would be wrong. Despite packing an entire Toys R Us and Wal-Mart into your minivan your child will still ask every ten seconds "are we there yet" and force you to play endless hours of eye spy. When you arrive at your destination you really need a nap. Napping will be impossible because thirty miles ago your little one fell asleep, combine that with being cooped up in a car for several hours and you have a toddler who could single handedly power Beijing for six months with its stored energy.

As a dutiful parent you desire to take your children, not just to every Disney park ever created but also, to sites of historical significance. My wonderful parents took my daughter Sam to Washington DC two years ago. She experienced the Smithsonian, all the monuments and Arlington Cemetery. At Arlington they stopped to see JFK's eternal flame. For any of you who haven't seen it let me describe it to you. A simple headstone for President Kennedy is flanked by headstones for his son Patrick, wife Jackie, and daughter Arabella. The grave site is filled out with several mismatched stones with grass growing in between them (I have no idea why they are so mismanaged but perhaps it's an artists rendition meant to evoke thoughts of his ancestral homeland). Placed just above JFK's headstone is his eternal flame. I've never understood the purpose of an eternal flame. It's either meant to be thought provoking or further proof of the human race's mastery of fire. The entire site is watched over by a military guard and surrounded by a black chain that you are obviously not meant to cross. So, after being an angel throughout the changing of the guard ceremony at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier my parents take my daughter to see the eternal flame and grave site of one of our nations most revered presidents. What does my daughter do? She climbs under the black chain, runs across the headstones, vaults the flame, is chased down and tackled to the ground by the guard and subsequently black listed from Arlington Cemetery. That is how my daughter shows respect for a national treasure.

So you may ask why, if we know how the trip is going to go, why do we insist on letting our children out of the house before the age of twenty five? That's easy, population control. No doubt all the single and childless people at Arlington Cemetery that day are still single and childless. Since most people doubled their birth control that day, my daughter is responsible for extending the Earth's resources by 3%  she really deserves the Nobel Prize or something. 

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