Recently I went on a trip. Just myself and two of my nieces. They are ages 5 and 5 1/2. I never thought I would make so many fantastic memories. I had this vision of being the cool aunt who took them on this road trip and then documented every detail, printed it in a fancy photo book and gave it to them to keep forever. They would look back through the book over the years and go on and on about it being the best summer trip ever. That vision was quickly diminished once we actually started on the road trip. Instead, they will get documented (and hopefully comical) observations. They might actually get printed pictures by the time they are in their twenties. And instead of going on and on about the best trip ever, they will probably just discuss how “Auntie Ricia” has never been on time or followed through with anything in her life so it’s no surprise we are married with our own kids and just now getting pictures of a trip we took when we were five.
ANYWAY!! As a single woman with no children who bravely embarked on a ten hour road trip with some sassy almost kindergartners, here are my observations in no particular order. Observations that actually lead to tears upon reflection. And reflection that lead to gratefulness for seeing life through a child’s eyes for a week and realizing that life really is that simple and that beautiful.
Meet Chella and Jasmyn. They are cousins and belong to my sisters. They have never been on any kind of trip like this. What we thought was a six hour drive to a condo/family resort in TN turned out to be an eleven hour adventure! :)
1. As tired as I was I couldn’t help but be heart happy when little miss came barging in my room on the Saturday morning of our departure yelling “ricia, get up it’s vacation day and I got my nails done”. Seriously, how cute is she?
2. I forgot how much fun it is to drive on the interstate, get really close to a semi-truck and do “that arm thing” where you motion the truck driver to blow his horn. Teaching my nieces this and seeing them laugh when they got a reaction out of the drivers was too cute.
3. Bathroom stops. What usually takes me maybe three minutes when I’m stopping for a “pee break” on a road trip suddenly turned into twenty minutes with these chicks. Just getting unbuckled, out of the car and into the store was a good seven minutes. Who knew there was so much decision making in using a bathroom. They are little multi-taskers too. They never stopped talking all while adjusting their clothes, using the bathroom, flushing and washing. At one point, they were discussing who had more toilet paper when one said to the other “It really doesn’t matter who has more. I still love you” and the other replies “I love you too. We are good cousins”. I don’t think I have ever confessed my love to anyone in the bathroom stall but I guess it’s as good of a place as any to do so. Literally every serious conversation that we had on this trip took place in gas station bathrooms. We learned about kindness and when to take a time out from people. We talked about stranger danger. You name it, we covered it. All in the stall.
3. You can only entertain so long before stand still traffic, no naps, and two very opinionated girls (ok three counting me) get to be too much for a car ride. Then, when you find out that you had the address wrong all along and the drive just went from six hours to ten, all you can do is start praying……and adding liquor to your grocery list.
4. How many times can you watch Frozen on a week long vacation? I lost count after 2,456. I also lost count of how many discussions we had about “when we will be there”
5. Confession. Even though we ended up watching Frozen a gazillion times, I may or may not have allowed them to take their headphones out and plug the portable dvd player into the car stereo so that we could all sing Let it Go together. Can’t. Say. No. It just sucks you in.
6. When you get “a little lost” in Memphis, never doubt that small children smell the fear in you and are happy to point out the obvious. “Um, Auntie Ricia, I’m pretty sure you are going da wong way” (as said in the voice of one who has a few issues with the letter r).
7. How cute is it when you pass through Nashville, two little girls are blown away and declare that they want to move to the big city, and proceed to make up their own songs and perform them? Pretty darn cute.
8. I have never been more thankful for friends who stay up late, google traffic and calm me by letting me know that night construction I am sitting in the middle of will be over in one more exit and not to give up and go running down the interstate to the nearest bar after being on the road for 9 hours.
9. I can’t even be mad at the two little firecrackers for their stubbornness, opinionated personalities, independence, and ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. Even though there were times I wanted to choke their precious little arguing necks….I am so glad they have these characteristics and hope they keep them into their later lives where it will benefit them and hopefully keep them from getting pushed around.
10. How fun is Shrek the Musical at the community theater? On a scale of one to never doing that again, I would say about a 5. It was a great idea until it turned out to be 3 hours, had more adult jokes than kids could get and we skipped napped time. They still say they loved it, but I’m skeptical :)
10. When the front desk concierge tells you the directions to the lake and says “the beach is on your left”, and two small children hear that and think they are going to the real beach….as a poor, single aunt, you do not tell them any differently. You let them think they have finally been taken to the beach and you deal with whatever happens later in life when they realize it was all a lie. You buy them goggles, Goldfish, and let them play until they literally can’t keep their eyes open. Because that is the only time you get to remotely relax on a trip like this.
11. Catching fireflies never gets old. It actually gets even better when you’re older and you see the pure, simple joy it brings a little person that you love so much it hurts.
12. What was their favorite room at the condo? The bathroom. They couldn’t stay out of it when they played inside. You know why? Because they realized how great the acoustics were in there. I would catch them using the bathtub steps as a stage and singing their hearts out. And so far in their tiny lives, they have never made me more proud! :) I love a good bathroom concert and am happy to see they do to!
13. You DO NOT admit defeat to your family in a situation like this. They are just dying to see you fail and wave the white flag. I fed and watered these kids, three times a day (plus countless snacks). I kept them clean (for the most part). And most importantly, everyone stayed alive. You may have to have a few beers after they go to bed. But, when you’re sisters and mom are back home just knowing you will never survive, you stay strong! :)
14. Kids have no filters. They, without knowing what they are doing, can make you question your very existence. Example conversation:
Them: Auntie ricia, do you have a husband or boyfriend?
Them: whoa, you’re all awone in dis big world?
Me: yes, I’m just waiting on who Jesus picks for me
Them: well he needs to hurry cause you are getting old
15. Mcdonald’s had to have made these Happy Meals knowing that crazy adults like me would be making a pit stop there after being on the road alone with small children for hours. Because this one that we got more than accurately conveyed my sanity! :)
There are countless memories we created that I could take up so much more space sharing. There was just so much joy on this trip. The whole time I have been trying to figure out what I needed to restore, and thought the answer was a beach vacation to myself, what I really needed was to get away and see how simple life is through the eyes of a child! We should never be taking ourselves too seriously! I never knew I could love someone so much as I do these girls (and the rest of my kiddos out there). I can only hope that even though this was a simple trip, that it’s something they remember for years to come!