A few short days from now, I will be grabbing a travel mug of coffee, triple checking the house to see what I forgot, stepping into my car, and hitting the road for four weeks. I’ve done road trips before. But never this long or far. Only one other time with two small children in tow, and that was for just a couple of days. Have I lost my mind to think this is a good idea?
Every seven years, my husband, Ben, gets an eight week sabbatical from work. This is the second sabbatical he has received. Both times, on his last day of work, I made a sign with the words “Welcome to your vacation” written on it. This time, instead of coloring the sign by myself, I had two little helpers- my sons, Liam and Kellen. It was strange to think that at the time of his last sabbatical, they weren’t even born.
My mind began rummaging through the memories of the past few years, and all that has happened since the previous sabbatical. Last time around, I was unable to get time off from work. I thought it was silly for Ben to waste such a huge opportunity, and encouraged him to take a motorcycle trip with his friend. They rode their bikes from Arizona to Canada and back. While he was gone, I quite taking my birth control pills. We agreed that the sabbatical would be his big, last hurrah before we started trying to have a family.
He returned from the road, and two months later, I was pregnant. He sold his motorcycle. He still loved riding, but he was going to be a father. Having had a grandfather killed while riding a motorcycle, maybe he wanted to limit the activities that might keep him from seeing them grow up. Or maybe he had just had enough of the road. Either way, he is a different man than he was the last time this trip came around.
I no longer have to worry about getting time off from work. I am a stay at home mom. My life has headed in a completely new direction since I waved goodbye from our sidewalk seven years ago. Even the sidewalk has changed. We have moved houses, had children, lost family members, been to weddings, earned degrees, changed career paths, enrolled our kids in school, taken up new hobbies, gained pets, made new friends- it feels like an entire lifetime has happened in a short span of years.
Are we even the same people anymore? One sure way to find out is going on an epic road trip. I remember a friend telling me he knew he had met his wife when he traveled with her, and he still enjoyed her company by the end of the vacation. I am a bit nervous about being in close car parameters, just me and my family, for weeks on end. Of course, there will be pit stops to see relatives and friends, but the majority of this trip is just the four of us.
People keep asking me if I am excited. I am. But I am also anxious. Maybe it’s being a stay at home mom, or maybe it is just me, but I am reliant on my friends. On the days I’m not feeling my most exuberant, I know I can call one of my girlfriends. She’ll come over with her crew. The kids will entertain each other, the moms will drink coffee and talk, taking turns checking on the little ones and tending to their needs.
My husband is a fantastic and modern dad. As we speak, he is running kids to the library so I can type this blog. But my girlfriends are the ones there day to day. I jokingly call my friend Lala my buddy wife. We make plans with each other before telling our husbands- the guys tease and say to just let them know the details once we have it all worked out. We see each other at least every few days. On Mother’s Day, my husband took the boys to go get donuts, and not one of them knew what my favorite was. I asked Lala, wondering if she would know, and she said “It’s the coconut cream. Duh!” She’s in the trenches with me. She knows what it is to entertain two boys all day, what that looks like, and how to handle it. Will I be lost without her?
I am an organizer. I have been stockpiling goodies for weeks. Little toys I can whip out when the boys start complaining about being in the car. New markers to make coloring pages more exciting. Special snacks for times of hunger when there isn’t a stop in sight. Car journals to chronicle the trip. Stickers to put in the journals.
Over the months, I’ve been buying these items, and tucking them in the closet. Today, I pulled everything out to make road trip bags for the boys. Every time I thought I had found the last item, I saw something else- Lego mini figures, silly putty, toy dinosaurs, more stickers, new books, still more stickers, magazines, nurf guns, and- you guessed it, still more stickers. I have no idea how I am going to actually pack clothes in my suitcase because it has been taken over by prizes to ensure a fun, exciting, engaging family road trip.
Today, as I sat printing coloring page after coloring page to put in the bags, Ben placed a plate in front of me. It was two slices of grilled bread with melted brie and homemade tomato jam. He handed me a glass of red wine, and said “Happy Sabbatical!”
I was reminded that before kids, before buddy wives, before epic road trips, I had a partner. Most of the changes we’ve experienced, at least the good ones, are the result of us loving and supporting each other. We always seem to have a good time together. I’m sure this time will be no different- perhaps even better because we get to share so much with our two favorite little buddies.
Bring on the road trip! Memories are waiting to be made.