I spent a lot of my childhood traveling. Driving to Texas to visit family. Flying solo between New York and Washington, DC (yes, flying alone at 6!), traveling between New York and Allentown, PA. I think I was an OK car traveler. I slept. I read. I’m sure I talked people’s ears off and I always needed frequent rest stops.
Miss Red is not the best car traveler. She never has been. It’s who she is, at least for now. But last weekend CH went to Iowa for the weekend and I decided to drive to Kalamazoo, MI to visit my dad, stepmom and Baby Uncle. I was worried from the outset, but spent two weeks stocking a food bin and an activity bin with new and exciting treats. We have a portable DVD player, but it’s that darn Chicago that makes everything unpredictable.
So what happened? A few miles into Illinois, we reach stand-still traffic. Like, turn off your car. Like, people get out and look around. And even though we had stopped two times before Illinois for potty breaks, Miss Red soiled herself. She and I both cried – she because she was so embarrassed and said, “only babies poop their pants,” and I because there was nothing I could do. When we finally got moving again, I couldn’t feel as bad, since our slow-down was due to rubbernecking an accident on the other side, where I kid you not, there was a line of stopped traffic for 10 miles. It wasn’t even Chicago that brought us down, but it still took us six hours to get from Point A to Point B.
I stopped as soon as I could, in some McDonald’s near the 41 mile-marker. We threw away her shorts and underpants. Cleaned her up, and spent a lot of the rest of the ride and weekend talking about the accident. On Saturday night, her arms wrapped around me, she asked what Pull-ups were made of. “Thick paper,” I said. “I think I should borrow one for the traffic.” And we did.
The ride home was free of traffic, thankfully, but full of a stubborn girl who cried wolf. Four times we stopped the car, went into restrooms, and she refused to use the bathroom. I yelled at her in a particularly gross Shell gas station bathroom in Elgin, IL. I’m a picky public restroom user, but this was too much. I was tired, cranky, and knew she had to go. “Mommy, you scared me when you yelled.” I apologized, but that feeling in the pit of my stomach still sticks with me. I do my best to not yell because I know it means I’ve reached my limit. But without backup and staring into a clogged toilet, with a girl doing a potty dance, I just yelled. “You need to go to the bathroom!”
Sure enough, 20 miles away from home, she goes in the Pull-up. Sad she had to use it and uncomfortable, she whines. I call CH as we drive down our street and he meets us outside, takes Miss Red in and cleans her up. I drink a glass of water and head upstairs, beat.
I have no romance for road trips. None. They are hot and boring and someone always needs more legroom. They do bring people or places together, but many of my memories involve me not wanting to leave or return from where I started. It’s a new era, where I can mostly control where I travel, and where Miss Red can be a pirate with her uncle. While I feel more safe while I travel, much of the adventure is gone.