Every year that we can, in the spirit of being slightly insane, we shove ourselves into the car and drive south to Texas as fast as we can in the fewest number of days. Then we extricate ourselves from the car and sit in the heat eating Mexican food and…well…that’s pretty much all we do. Then we shove ourselves back in the car and come crying back to the north, reminding ourselves that all is not lost, we can probably do it again next year. So, what’s my advice for traveling with six children? I mean, shouldn’t I have some, since I’ve done it a fair bit? Let me dig around in my mind and see if I have anything useful in there.
1. Separate the warring children
I don’t know why I don’t spend more time thinking this through. There’s always going to be, in a group of siblings, pairs that don’t get along. They rub each other’s nerves raw. They can never assume anything nice. Why would I continually put these awful children next to each other? This year, by all that is clean and not thrown up on, I will take a few moments to arrange car seating.
2. Meals in Ziplocks
This isn’t as cool as it sounds, but it does keep me from getting a horrible crick in my neck, craning round to pass back yet another apple. When I have my wits about me, on the day before the trip, I fill ziplock bags with food and juice boxes and label them by meal and day. Monday Breakfast. Monday Lunch. Monday Supper. And so on. Everyone receives the glory of a bag full of processed food at regular intervals while I sit in the front, quietly eating Brie and avocado and pretending I can’t hear the raging behind me. Of course, if you were very wealthy, or nuts, you could stop for meals in restaurants, but that’s it’s own peculiar horror. Oh, and the beauty of a ziplock (because I can hear you tut tutting about the extravagance) is that the child is admonished to put that half drunk juice box Back Into The Bag No I’m Serious I WILL NOT Hold It For You Put It Back In…ok, now zip it up, no really, zip it…Elphine, zip that bag up for her. Ok.
3. Everyone Gets Out At Every Stop
Yeah, sweetie, I know you think you are above this particular bathroom break, but we’re not stopping for another thousand miles because your father is goal driven. So go on and find that shoe after all. Not only will you not die, you will also stop whining because the Israelites whined in the wilderness and they all died and I haven’t suffered the pains of child birth to have you lose your life by throttling….stop it…stop it…get out right now, I will carry you in…oh for crying out loud.
4. Shoes in a Bag
You see, you don’t really want six children wearing shoes into the car and then removing them somewhere between Harrisburg and Chattanooga and never finding them again ever. So there’s a nice bag, hung from the back of my chair, and when you enter the car, you remove your shoes and put them in the bag. And when you exit the car, you pause, gather your shoes, and put them on outside. There’s no reason, see, to lose your shoes, or even one shoe. I’m just going to say it again, slower and louder, because I feel like nobody is listening to me (I don’t know why I would feel this way). THERE IS NO REASON FOR ANYONE TO LOSE EVEN ONE SHOE.
5. I Won’t Charge Your Device
I know you’re bored and crying, but see, I just can’t do that. If I charged your device, I would have to charge everyone’s, and I really just cannot do that. I understand that you didn’t get it all the way charged last night, and that the battery only lasts for two hours, at the most, but life is a veil of tears. It just is. That’s why Jesus had to die. Because things are So Bad.
6. No Pink Sugar Milk
Yes, I should have been able to guess that that was a bad idea. Just a heads up, don’t be suckered by the thrall of milk filled with sugar and dyed pink. It is really hard to get it out of upholstery once the child has–I mean, how shall I say this, it wasn’t spilled. It just..its just so disgusting.
Patheos: Raising Social Justice Warriors
7. Enjoy Yourself
Ever wake up in the morning and wish you could just sit in a chair all day? Well, once a year, you can. Or rather, I can. I love sitting in the car, watching the miles fly past, listening to the children rage and the infants plot in vain. I always cut all the flowers that are blooming out of my garden and put them in a jar in the cup holder and then I lie back, and consider that getting through another school year was a pretty great accomplishment, and that rest is good, and seeing the Alamo is delightful, and that God was pretty nice to give me all these children.
Anne Kennedy lives in upstate New York, where she mothers her six young children and helps her husband keep body and soul together in the pastoring of a small Anglican church. Having grown up in French-speaking West Africa and traveled all over the world, she is constantly surprised to wake up every morning in her gently-fading small American town which, even after thirteen years, still feels like the end of the world.