The phrase every parent doesn't love to hear took only 30 minutes to arrive this morning, before we had even made it to the tollway. It was made by HG3 who really had no idea what he was getting into when we all piled in the van at 6:30 this morning. Every time we stopped he wanted to know if we were in Arizona yet.
K. wasn't much better, though he's made the trip before. He has a real stream-of-consciousness thing going on and whatever pops into his head comes out of his mouth. The free association that happens in that brain of his is something to behold. He rambles on and on, and sometimes it's all very funny. He has fixated on hotel stays at the moment and for some reason he thinks sleeping in a hotel is the most fun thing we've ever done. More than once today, he announced that he thought he could see our hotel from where he was sitting, despite the fact that for some of these announcements we were still at least one state away from where we were stopping.
L. wins for least successful car ride participant. I can't decide if she was over tired or something else was up (or she was just being L.), but not much made her happy. I'm not proud to admit it, but that child can whine. The catalogue of unhappiness was vast... she was too hot, she was hungry, her foot hurt, she wanted a toy, she didn't want a toy, and the ultimate was when, after a day of whining, she then proceeded to whine for the last half hour that everyone was being too noisy because she was trying to go to sleep. I expect that getting up at 5 am was not a good thing for her and that after a good night's sleep and a day of the trip under her belt, she (and the rest of us) will fare better tomorrow.
Lunch was spent with our friends who were in our travel group in China and it was a great break for everyone. The littles got to play and we got to meet each other's children whom we hadn't met, yet. (Thank you for letting us all descend on you and eat our lunch at your table!)
All in all, it really wasn't a bad day and we clocked 12 hours of driving, making it to Kearney, NE where we are spending the night. The older people seem to be having a ball in the back benches together, we've finished one recorded book (it wasn't great, but it held everyone's attention), and it wasn't until 4:30 that I started to break out my supply of small toys that I keep just for car rides.
We have made this trip many, many times with varying numbers of children of varying ages. We have it all down to a system of what works and what doesn't. I've written about long car trips with children before, but here's my short list of things to keep in mind if you are attempting it for the first time.
1. The first six hours are always the worst. It takes this long for people to settle into a routine and make adjustments. There's always a little fussing as people negotiate space. But I think the biggest issue is that many of us go from over-stimulating environments where there are many distractions and then we get in a car without those distractions and everyone goes through a bit of a withdrawal. Entertaining yourself with your own thoughts is always more difficult than being entertained externally.
2. Assign seats. You really don't want to have to go through the jostling and negotiating for space that occurs as the beginning of a trip every time you stop and people get out of the car. You just don't.
3. Dole out snacks and toys. There will come a time each day when you need to distract people, don't use up all your bag of tricks within that first six hours or you will have nothing left.
4. Keep your sense of humor. Anytime you can laugh about something it can lighten the mood. Choose to be silly and keep things fun. Sure it can be aggravating if children are bickering or whining, but you're all stuck together, so you might as well make the best of it and decide to enjoy the trip.
It's an easy day tomorrow... a short half day drive over to Denver and then two nights with my brother and his family.