Not far from home, after being on the road for nearly two weeks, it’s impossible not to think about how we did all the things we did and how we did it all with five kids. In one car. And walked away with our sanity.
To be real, we definitely had our moments. Because we’re a very human family. Kids annoyed each other. Kids annoyed us. We got tired and hungry, and so did kids. They got snotty with each other, and they needed band-aids for any number of bug bites and scratches along the way.
They talked too loud, they needed an unbelievable volume of snacks and they sometimes made faces at the options they had for dinner – which was only ever more than one option one time.
So yeah. We’re normal. We had those normal road trip moments. But we also laughed a lot. And helped each other out, passing water bottles up for refills and snacks back for everyone to try.
One thing we didn’t do was ever tell them where we were going. We like the surprise factor, but we also LOVE not being asked…
“Are we there yet?”
In fact, they know not to ask. That, and “How much farther?”
Besides a healthy stockpile of snacks, we survived these long drives by being flexible. We had no timetable. We made bathroom stops whenever they were needed, even if we had only stopped a few miles before. We took our time and pulled over, a lot, giving them time to explore and absorb where we were – which was especially monumental at the state lines, as they realized we were crossing into places they had never been before.
We stocked the car with Highlights magazines, Mad Libs and white boards with fresh dry erase markers. And we didn’t give them caffeine. Like, ever. Except for a couple stops when we knew they’d have time to run it off – away from us.
We didn’t take music requests, except for during “all request hours,” which coincided with our discovery of a soggy sleeping bag as we headed into Yellowstone, sidelining us for a little bit outside a park laundromat. And we took the time we had with them in the car to dial up a few podcasts and let them listen – the most entertaining and informative being the “Holy Shit” episode of Today Explained that dove into the discovery of lunar poo left behind on the moon by astronauts.
We also, of course, listened to Old Town Road. Duh.
We traveled light and basic, focusing on the needs of the moment and kept a chill vibe on timing. If we saw a cool lake, we went in. If we were near a fun climbing spot, we climbed. If a rest stop had a trail, we took it. If we found pickles at a gas station, we bought them (and ate them ALL!)
And, if we experienced a mishap – a missed turn, a fall, a couple lost phones – we rolled with it. I’m not saying we did everything perfect, but the stuff we did made it possible to do all the things we did. To see all the things we did and to experience all the things we did.
I’m not sure we’d do it any other way.