The past few weekends have been pretty quiet around our house. That’s not to say that they’ve been boring… just not as crazed as they were , say, this past fall when we were scheduled for something every single weekend. Photographing Navy football games, working at the winery, heading off to Fall lacrosse games, and shooting sporting events for people really kept me hopping through December. I was stunned when I realized that we had some quiet weekends planned in January… and have been taking stock of how to spend that down time.
Having things to do each weekend can be a blessing. Spending time in the car with M is one of my favorite things about having plans for weekends. We talk about everything and nothing… we listen to music… we reminisce about things that pop into our minds… we chat about work (his and mine now)… and we reconnect in a way that I treasure more than anything. I have friends who dread spending hours on a car ride. To me, this has always been a great place to talk over plans and get caught up on our lives. We usually end up laughing so much about the silliest things that I actually relish those drives. It’s not a curse to be “cooped up in the car”… it’s really a blessing.
I’m always amazed to see those cars or vans that have a DVD player available for their kids. TV shows or movies, they seem to be played all the time, whether it’s a short trip to the store or a long drive to visit relatives. When D and E were little, we didn’t have access to this piece of entertainment. Truth be told, we probably would have considered using it when we had some of our longer car trips (MD to MI for example) but I’m actually glad we didn’t. Having to fill those hours in the car by playing games, listening to music, or talking allowed us to get to know our children in ways we didn’t expect. Listening to E screaming out the words to “La Vie Boheme” from RENT from the back of the van was a personal favorite… having to stop at a roadside restaurant because D got car sick… definitely not.
Car travel, for our family, has always been a “given”. I much prefer it, even with time issues and traffic, to any other mode of transportation. I like being enclosed, almost encapsulated, with my family and being forced to communicate the hours away. There’s traffic ahead? Let’s find another way around it that we might have otherwise by-passed in favor of the more direct route. We’ve had our share of frustrating and irritating drives, but as long as there’s no deadline to our arrival, the travel time can be seen through a more entertaining lens. Seeing honest-to-God cotton fields on my trip to ECU with M this fall was certainly entertaining…. having the drive take an extra hour through some sketchy territory was probably less so.
In our first few weeks in Michigan, before GPS and turn-by-turn directions, I would get lost driving the boys around and tell them that we were “going on an adventure”. We weren’t lost… we were taking a more scenic and circuitous route home. It certainly made me feel better when it took us a little longer than we’d expected. I knew the general layout of the area, so when I eventually reached a familiar road, all was fine again. The boys didn’t get worried… going on an adventure sounded a heck-of-a-lot better to them than just driving straight home… and by putting a positive spin on what could have been an anxious drive made me feel better too. Traveling in the car was simply a fun way to spend time with my boys.
As the boys have gotten older, car travel has changed but remained a blessing to me. When they were in middle school, I learned to turn the music up in the back of the van so they would have to speak loudly (and I’d be able to hear) if they wanted to talk with their friends when I drove car pool. As they learned to drive, spending time in the car had a purpose… a goal-oriented space where each could make mistakes and become confident in their abilities. Now that they are ones behind the wheel, I try hard not to critique their driving… instead, I count this as a great place in which to listen. In their own ways, they communicate their personalities to me and allow me to continue to have a place in their lives. I like that this enclosed space, where I spend time with varying groupings of M, D, and E, is still fun.
I may not like the time it takes to drive somewhere, but I’ll never complain about spending that time with any of my guys. Where else am I able to have the undivided attention of my family… isn’t that the most wonderful blessing of car travel?