Last month I took my 3 year-old on one of those rare road trips without my husband. My aunt invited us along for the trip and without really thinking through all of the details, I said yes. I was so happy to spend time with my family, especially with my husband working out of town that day. It seemed like so much fun! Then I got in the car and realized that I was spending hours with two very talkative and opinionated children…my 3 year-old and one 14 year-old. The 14 year-old listened to music, taunted the toddler with games, and tried really hard to participate in adult conversations before being told to go to sleep by his mother. My 3 year-old refused to share his snacks but demanded that his cousin be fair and share his. The toddler also insisted that his cousin stop interrupting the adults, at one point telling his big cousin to “stop talking to your mother that way!”
Mid-trip, I was laughing myself silly but got really nervous at thought of taking these two out of the car and exposing them to the world outside…would others find their banter funny or annoying? My aunt looked at us with love but I am sure she might have also been rethinking her decision to invite us! As we approached our destination, my aunt looked at my 3 year-old and asked if he was going to talk the entire time. Of course, that was a no-brainer because he literally did talk, sing, and commentate the entire trip, even insisting that my aunt, the driver, “speed up” and “hurry up” through the green lights (oh yes, my child has a bit of road rage)!
Finally we reached my other cousin’s house and that’s where my decision to be spontaneous in travel faced its toughest test! I totally forgot how neat, organized, and strict my cousin is, as a retired member of the US Navy. Here I go taking my child into their new home! Also, the two road trip buddies have a run-in with the neatest 6 year-old on the planet (my cousin’s sweet baby girl)! With the three of them, it literally took ALL of the adults to keep peace and to ensure that my cousin’s home was left in livable condition. I had a great time but the visit is still a blur because I spent so much time trying to keep track of my toddler. (I still have flashbacks of my cousin following the toddler around picking up crumbs and trying to keep all of the children safe and happy.)
I then started to feel very inadequate because we have a very large family with more than 20 grandchildren and most of us grew up together traveling around the country spending extended time with each other. That meant that, especially during the summers, our parents might have multiple children, not just visiting, but staying with them for weeks at the time…and they made it seem so easy!
With the memories of growing up, I have come to realize that our parents were just as overwhelmed as we are but they had each other. They trusted their parents, siblings, in-laws, and friends to be important influences on us and to this day we have strong bonds with everyone who helped to shape our lives. It is now our generation’s time to work together to build that same foundation for our children. As overwhelming as the trip was, it was worth every minute to ensure that my child knows his extended family and is able to benefit from the support, discipline, and example that my family and in-laws can provide. That is the only way to help our children avoid and get through the pitfalls of life. It truly is a family affair!
by Kimberly Wicker, Outreach Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy