Are We There Yet? Planning a Family Vacation?

Planning a Family Vacation - take a long some fun

Beyond My Control

As my four children look forward to their week-long spring vacation and my husband and I prepare to make the annual trek from north-eastern Ohio to Southern Florida, many songs come to mind as I try to describe the long car trips that we have taken together as a family.

“What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been” by the Grateful Dead. “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC. Or my favorite, “I’d Rather Walk A 1,000 Miles Than Spend Another Minute In The Car With You.” Ok, I made up the last one. But I’m sure there’s a country western song somewhere with a similar title.

Many of our friends have the luxury of being able to fly to their spring break destination. Within hours of leaving Ohio, they are stripped of their winter parkas and lathering up the sunscreen. But not us. With four children, it just isn’t feasible to fly a family of six to Florida at the height of spring vacation, so we proceed to do what every family needs to do at least once.

Looking more like the Griswold Family than the Brady Bunch, we pack the minivan with every suitcase we own and hit the road for a Family Vacation.

I find that packing the suitcases for a vacation is easy. Getting my husband, John, to load them into the car is the difficult part. I have concluded that it is a male genetic trait that men cannot pack a car or string Christmas tree lights without yelling and swearing. My father yells, my husband swears, and I know his father does too when trying to pack the car for a trip.

Once we get on the road and the initial stress of packing has subsided, my husband, like many men, has one goal in mind - to beat the previous year’s time. Although my husband can’t remember our children’s birth dates, he can remember how long it took him to get to Florida each of the five years we have driven. Last year, John was well on his way to beating his previous time. That is, until we encountered a nice police officer about two hours from our destination.

Seeing the flashing lights in the review mirror, John quickly pulled over. The officer, who looked young enough to be fresh out of the police academy, slowly made his way to our vehicle.

“Son, do you have any idea how fast you were going?” the young officer asked. You know you’re in big trouble when an officer younger than you addresses you as “son.”

As the officer took John’s drivers license and headed back to his car, my husband looked back at our four kids, who were stone quiet for the first time in 17 hours. “Why didn’t you guys cry or fight when the officer was at the window?” he pleaded. “I’ll give anyone who pitches a fit when he comes back $10 bucks!”

“Wait!” I shouted back at my children. “What in the world are you doing?” I asked John before all hell broke loose.

“Don’t you remember that time I got pulled over in Michigan?” John asked. I had forgotten that episode, but the nightmare suddenly came flooding back. Many years ago, we got a late start on the five-hour journey to my parent’s home in Michigan. At about 11 pm, the twins were sick of their car seats and started screaming in unison. My two older children were over-tired, hungry, and started to cry as well. This scenario is enough to make any driver speed like a NASCAR pro.

Out of nowhere, police lights started flashing in the midnight blackness. As John pulled over and rolled down his window, the officer, this time a woman, approached our car.

Her senses were immediately assaulted with screams, cries and the mixed smell of poopy diapers and McDonald french fries. She asked to see John’s registration and it was at that point that I knew I was in big trouble.

He had been asking me for weeks to clean out the minivan’s glove compartment. Of course, I never got to it and as I lifted the compartment handle, it sprung open like a jack-in-the-box, spewing papers and receipts all over the front seat.

John immediately gave me an angry look that said “Didn’t I tell you to clean that out!” and I suddenly found myself crying and yelling at him about the trials and tribulations of being a mom and never having enough time to do anything.

The officer, trying not to laugh, quickly handed my husband’s information back to him and said, “Sir, I think you have enough to worry about tonight. Please just promise me you’ll slow down.” For once, John had a reason to be extremely thankful for screaming kids and a manic wife.

“Remember?” he asked again, bringing me back to the present situation. “Maybe if everyone starts crying, he’ll feel sorry for me and let me off! I’d rather pay $40 to the kids than hundreds of dollars to the State of Florida!”

As the officer returned, a steady stream of cries and whines flowed through the open window. “Those all yours?” he asked looking at our misbehaving group. “Yes sir they are,” John replied humbly. “They’re usually really very good. I guess they’re just excited to get to their Grammy’s house.”

“Well, I think I’ll put off having kids for a good long while,” he said with a look of disgust on his face as he handed John his very expensive speeding ticket and walked back to his cruiser.

Staring in disbelief at the piece of paper in his hand, I thought John might start crying when one child asked, “Do we still get our $10 Daddy?”

Christine Thome is the PR Director for Americas Best Value Inn and Vantage Hospitality. She also writes a weekly column, Beyond My Control, for a northeastern Ohio newspaper, focusing on the humorous side of marriage and raising their four children, ages 14, 11, 9 and 9.