A Family Trip to Patience

The great American vacation. Dad, mom and the kids in the car, armed with a map. Or in today’s version, a GPS. And a mobile DVD player.
Not as many people embark on such journeys these days, preferring air travel to long drives. However, road trips do have the amazing ability to tell you a great deal about the closeness of your family. It’s also a great test of your own personal patience and parenting ability.
My family – husband, wife, and two girls, 9 and 8 – just completed a trip from Pennsylvania to South Carolina, with strategic stops.
My daughters, I have found, are fascinated with hotels and their various amenities. They began comparing the virtues of the free breakfast in the lobby. Hampton Inn in Beckley, West Virginia, you need to step it up. They love the rooms at the Marriott Spring Hill Suites in Florence, SC.
My husband does not like driving the Nissan Altima, nor does he like the keyless car system, where you just have to have the key in your pocket to open the locks. And he doesn’t want anyone helping him load the luggage.
There is little I can find to eat on the Cracker Barrel menu, but I still love the country store. I’m baffled by the lack of country music stations in North Carolina, and I can’t understand how the entire city of Charlotte can be under construction at once.
But, truth be told, it seems that even the closest of families, like ours, needs much more space than comes in a double-queen suite at the Hampton Inn. As each day progressed, it seemed our irritability with one another grew. We did rather well the first three and a half days. The second leg of the trip the girls started to nag one another, which required more nagging from the husband and I. If one girl wanted one restaurant, the other did not – even if it was a favorite at home. They fought over the DVD player, after both decided one pair of the ear buds hurt too much for an entire movie. They fought over charging their Kindles, even though they both brought a charger. And of course there was the usual don’t-touch-my-stuff, she’s-being-mean-to-me, yadda, yadda.
The last day of the trip, when the older one tried to pull the younger one into the deep end of the hotel pool in spite of her screams to stop, dad had enough and marched them dripping wet back up to the fourth floor to read them the riot act. Calm lasted until dinner. Dad stopped talking to everyone.
Trips like this require patience – but not always in the ways expected. On the way home, we visited Colonial Williamsburg. We took them out of school for an out of town family wedding. It made sense to work in some education. I wasn’t expecting them to enjoy it.
But here was where they blew me away. They LISTENED to the reenactors. They can tell me what the Stamp Act was, and why the Colonists didn’t like it. They thought the colonial toys were cool. They wanted to ride in the carriages and asked the town ladies if they were hot in those dresses. I beamed! My kids LIKE American History. I’d saved patience up for the moans and yawns. And I didn’t even need to. Now this was worth hours in a small sedan.
My husband and I, who had been spending a lot of time apart due to work schedules and kids activities became a team again. Ok, sort of an us against them team, but also an us being impressed by them team. During the wedding, they bonded with their “new cousins,” tried new Southern foods and managed to celebrate without ruining clothes. But we also made them do homework and go to bed on time.
The best times of the trip came with the necessary space – to spread out, interact with others, and explore new things. The trying irritating parts seemed to come when we needed to share cramped quarters in the car and in hotel rooms. The times more like being at home. We all complained at one another. The kids flooded the bathroom every time they got a shower. Dad left the tv on too loud when he finally feel asleep on the suites couch. Mommy got mad when people left clothes all over the place.
Even the closest of families apparently need space and time away from one another. Two little girls with only one another to play with and talk to eventually dunk each other in the deep end of the pool. Spouses fighting for space in a too small bed while children giggle in the dark hours after bed time snap at each other in the morning when the toothpaste is missing.
And guess what? That’s ok. In the end, we all still love one another, not so much in spite of our ticks, but because of them.
God gives us the patience we need when we need it. And if we hang in there with one another, reminds us why each of us is amazing when we least expect it.


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