Some time ago I made the decision to make a road trip to see Aunty Mo while she was visiting my family in Ohio the last week in May. She hadn’t seen the boys since she moved to Montana a couple of years ago. The decision would have been an easy one if Katie, my wonderful wife, co-pilot, and children’s road trip entertainment director, could make the trip with us. Unfortunately, it was her busy season at work (another reason to hate standardized testing), which left me to make the journey with the two boys alone. I knew how much Aunty Mo wanted to see the boys, though, so not going was never really an option.
I made the decision to go about a month ago. This gave me way too much time to consider all the things that could go wrong while trapped in a car for over 10 hours with two young boys. It bothered me that I would use a word like trapped. For some perspective, I reminded myself of the Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days last year before being rescued. Over two months of trapped. I drew little inspiration from this. But it did help me decide that a helmet might be a good idea for the trip.
Last Wednesday morning we packed up the car and began the 500 mile/10 hour journey north. Me driving. The two boys in back. About two hours into the journey I began to play a mind game I play on trips to make them go faster. I turn the trip into a football game, one where the players don’t sell the trophies after they win. I figured two hours of driving meant we were coming up on the end of the first quarter of play (driving time). It felt like a fast first quarter. It felt like I was winning. But just like a football game, momentum can change.
Elliott: “Hey daddy.”
Me: “Yes Elliott.”
Elliott: If it’s a long way to Papa Hoss and Gigi’s house, then that means it’s going to be a long way home too.”
The length of a football game was suddenly longer than I thought.
It was about that time that the first movie of the trip ended. I knew there was little time to waste getting the next show started. An idle DVD player makes for a raucous back seat. I pulled into a rest area to start the next show. When Elliott asked me where we were I told him we were at a rest area. He asked what a rest area was. I told him it was a place where people traveling stop to rest and use the potty. I suppose I should have followed that up by asking them if they needed to go to the potty, but I assumed my definition would have triggered a request on their part. They have no problem letting me know when they have to go. They were more interested in helping to choose the next movie.
As we pulled back onto the highway, Tom and Jerry began a loud, hour long chase scene behind me. The boys were into it. Into it until we were about two miles beyond the rest area. That’s when Elliott let me know he had to go to the potty. I guess my rest area definition was a bit vague.
Speaking of rest areas. Either they’ve lowered the height of urinals, or Elliott is growing. This ended up being the biggest challenge of the trip. Ian has reached the age where “I can do it myself.” So when he saw Elliott standing and peeing, he decided he needed to stand and pee as well. Only the urinals haven’t dropped that low. So if I wasn’t quick enough to catch Ian before he had his drawers dropped, he’d be standing against a urinal, looking over at his brother using the one next to him, and sending a stream of his most recent cup of apple juice flowing under the urinal onto the floor. Most of the men using the facility at the same time as us were dads. The look of pity on their faces as I wrestled two half naked boys in the bathroom confirmed it.
Outside of the frequent stops, I couldn’t have asked for better boys. (The potty break frequency picked up once Ian figured out I refused to stop when he said he wanted to get out of his seat, but I would leave tire tread on the road when the car ground to a stop at the words “I have to use the potty.”)
The trip would have been worth it if when getting out of the car I felt like I had climbed out of a mine after a few months of entrapment. Aunty Mo has always been good to all of us kids, and she was not different with Ian and Elliott. Elliott even considered giving her a hug and a kiss, and he doesn’t think about hugging or kissing any women these days. I am grateful that the boys can spend time surrounded by family and create memories like the ones that live with me today. It was also nice after the long drive to have aunts and uncles and grandparents and big cousins pouring energy into the boys. Because when someone else is pouring, I’m not. If only they could drive.
THE SKY LOOKS DIFFERENT IN OHIO
YOU CAN GET MORE AIR UNDERNEATH YOU
OUR BOYS WILL HAVE A TRAMPOLINE INCLUDED IN YOUR SANTA LETTERS THIS YEAR
PAPA HOSS HELPS IAN DO SOME JUMPING OF HIS OWN
AUNTY MO AND THE COUSINS AT THE COLUMBUS ZOO
WHAT ARE YOU TWO BOYS LOOKING AT?
A POLAR BEAR LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO EAT