I spend huge amounts of time on the road with small children. Among the elements of our established travel routine, such as well-stocked activity bags for each child and pre-packed snacks with water bottles, I can also count on the youngest to create a distraction about one hour into the trip and again less than an hour from the destination.
Tiny Man burst into tears yesterday, going from whine to 60 in one second flat.
“Someone is tickling my back,” he sobbed. No one was tickling his back. His sister sat curled up on the opposite end of the rear seat with a book. She had not moved. His crying grew louder. I told him to hang on and we would pull over when there was a safe place. We were cruising a country road with no real shoulder above the ditch that separated asphalt from cotton fields and tobacco crops. His crying persisted among complaints of an apparently acute itch until we arrived in a one-stoplight town. I turned off the small highway and parked beside rows of desolate looking brick store fronts. Grass grew in the cracks of the sidewalk. One lone Mexican eyed my truck and disappeared into the dark doorway of a tienda behind me. I could hear the theme of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” playing in my head. Tiny Man’s howling reduced to breath sucking sobs and tears ran down his cheeks. I unhooked his seat belt, checked his back, rubbed it, and told him he was fine.
Crawling back into the driver seat, I heard the call of the wild from the backseat again.
“I’m hungry,” said my daughter.
Let’s just say I am sometimes not the most patient person.
“For crying out loud,” I exclaimed. I was eager to escape this town. “We just ate!”
“We did?” she asked.
“I hungry, too,” insisted Tiny.
Yes, we had eaten a lovely brunch at a nice restaurant with my oldest step-daughter in her college town. I had enjoyed crabcakes with eggs hollandaise. It was an exceptional meal, and my son, who normally loves crab and likes just a bit of spicy on his plate, had turned his nose up mid-way through dining.
Sundays in a small town dominated with what looks like weapon-packing Mexicans really don’t leave a lot of snack options. Even the Exxon station a block away looked menacing.
“You are going to have to cope,” I growled. The truck kicked into gear and we headed to the bigger highway where commercial offerings seemed a little less…frontier. Eventually, children were fed, and then a third stop was made--this time to remove the offending shirt from Tiny’s back, rub lotion on his skin, and button a softer one back on him. I was not very friendly about this, to be honest. A fourth stop ensured a refueling of the gasoline tank and the emptying of bladders. We were somehow, still close to the initial schedule.
We were doing ok, aside from occasional death threats to restore peace and quiet, when a new, urgent call came from the back seat.
“I has to peeeeeeeeeee.” There were 38 miles left to travel, making it our fifth stop in four and half hours of drive-time, we had missed the rest area my husband had told me (via message) to seek, and I was tired of gross bathrooms. We found a gas station, pulled to the side of it where a guard rail bordered the parking lot, and I let Tiny Man urinate onto the grass on the other side. We both leaned over the rail to watch the stream and make sure we did not get splashed.
When he was done, he pulled up his pants, and I cuddled him then tossed him up and down for giggles. This is just life with kids, I thought.
“You’re a good mommy,” he said. “I know this.”
I sure hope so. One more roadtrip down, countless more to go. I think we can make it.