Summer vacation recovery
We just returned home from a road trip with our family. Now we’re in that “post trip” recovery period. You know what I’m talking about. The car is littered with kids’ toys and gum wrappers. There are no clean clothes. The house smells stale. The milk is spoiled and the bread is moldy. We can’t find the toothbrushes. My kids are crying at the drop of a hat, too.
“Sweetie, go take this suitcase to your room.” “Mom, I’m too tired to walk to my room. My room is TOO far. I just can’t do it. Oh Mom, the trip just WORE me out. I can’t move. (Sob sob. Sniff sniff.) I can hardly stand up.”
“Yeah. Napping with a pillow in the backseat while eating your fill of caramel corn and Slim Jims just sucked the life right out of you, didn’t it?”
We all feel a little inadequate at the moment. Let’s just wear dirty clothes for a few days and sustain life by eating peanut butter out of the jar.
Summer vacationing with a strong-willed child is not a column. It’s a book. Of course, no one with a strong-willed child has time to write a book. People who write books on strong-willed children have either raised their kids already or they have live-in help. If that weren’t the case, they’d be busy looking for the toothbrushes.
Our family tore out of the driveway more than a week ago embarking on a 12-hour joy ride in the car. We were cheerfully singing and laughing. By the time we got to Dyersburg, things were already taking a turn for the worse.
“Mom, are we there yet?” “Daddy, I wanted to eat a hamburger for breakfast.” “Mom, he’s breathing on me and it stinks like Slim Jims!!”
We drive a Saturn. We drive a small car on purpose. Sure. We could have driven the SUV and our kids could have had more room. Some SUVs now even have one of those little flip-down televisions complete with headphones. They could eat snacks out of the mini-bar and drink a never-ending supply of their favorite carbonated beverages. When they’re both gainfully employed, that’s the life they can look forward to. Neither one has a job now so the backseat of the Saturn with water and a Slim Jim will have to do. We’re bound and determined to give them the rich and rewarding character-building childhood memories we have. They have to play “I Spy” and “Slug Bug.” Poor things. They have to share a back seat where their legs and arms sometimes touch. When they say “I’m bored,” we hand them a library book. The cruelty never ends. One time we even suggested they count rows of corn while traveling through Arkansas. That was a short-lived diversion.
We know many of you will be vacationing with strong-willed children this summer. Here’s valuable counsel from some people who have been there:
“Take a breath and think before you speak.”
“Make a plan. When the plan fails, make another plan.”
“Laugh a lot. Some things that upset us just aren’t that important.”
We love being parents. Even when the clothes are dirty and the car is trashed, we still think it’s a privilege to parent these little men. If you need some quality and quantity time with your family this summer, we suggest you find the smallest car you can and head out on the open road. Don’t forget the Slim Jims and caramel corn.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 6.18.08
Lisa Smartt, Smartt View