I remember going on summer vacation when my boys were small. We would load up the mini-van with backpacks, diaper bags, toys, playpens, highchairs, books, food, clothes and car-seats. It was a bit like Tetris trying to squeeze everything in the back, and under the feet of the smaller ones, and between the 2 in the middle. We would get everything in, make sure everyone had everything they needed, (their soothers, special blankies, stuffed animals), that everyone was fed and that everyone had visited the bathroom and off we would go to visit Nana and Grandad. It was a major undertaking.
My husband always did the driving except that one time he had the flu and I had to take over. He would drive and I would try to keep the kids happy. Most of the time that was fine. We would arrange their seating to make sure the most compatible ones were sitting together, that they all had their favourite toys or books nearby. We would talk about Pokemon, discuss beanie babies or dinosaurs, play music, sing songs, and tell jokes. I would mediate, negotiate and if that didn't work, dictate. It was loud and chaotic and exhausting. I miss it.
I remember those times from my own childhood. Every year we drove from Winnipeg to Vancouver to visit my Grandparents. I remember being loaded into the back seat of a station wagon that chock full, no seat-belts of course, fighting with my sisters over who got the window seat, complaining about the smell of the dog, sitting on the floor of the car and resting my head on the seat when I was feeling carsick. And I remember the singing. My Mom would start us off in the front seat and we would sing all these folksy Canadian songs, Land of the Silver Birch, Manitoba - Gate to the West, This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land. I loved those songs and I still remember them today.
I hope we built those memories for our kids as well. I hope they will think back fondly at the times we traveled together when they were young. The times they were uncomfortably squished into the back of the family vehicle with their siblings as we headed for the Sunshine Coast to see their grandparents or camping in Osoyoos.
This year, for the first time since 1988, it will be just my husband and I making the drive. We'll toss our bags and golf clubs in the back and we'll be out of here. It is so much easier, so much more convenient, so quiet and easy. I should be elated. But I am not. On the contrary I feel really hollow and sad. Where did the time go? Where are my little boys? I'm not ready!
Who will insist I go up on the top deck of the ferry so the wind can blow us backwards? Who will beg for something from the vending machine or cafeteria or gift shop? Who will entertain me with stories and jokes? Who will bug the person beside him one too many times?
I guess it'll be up to me to entertain myself now. I'll have to decide if I want to go up to the top deck or stay in the car. I'll have to make decisions based on what I want instead of out of necessity. It's kind of a new concept, but I'm sure we can figure this out. I think It's going to be okay. We can make this next adaptation.
It does make me think though. All these years I thought I was looking after them. I'm starting to think maybe it was the other way around.