My husband was scratching his head, his brow furrowed, when I explained to him my idea to take the kids on a two week road trip.
“So, you want to go to the snow…”
I would have preferred that we all go together, but there was a part of me that wanted to do the drive myself. The furtherest I’d ever driven was to Bundaberg and back. A small part of me wanted to know that I was independent enough to do the whole two week trek without back up. A large part of me was really worried I’d lose the plot entirely, but I was resolved to give it a go.
Besides, hubby had to work and was scheduled to take a month off at the end of the year.
My plan was simple. We’d drive a few hours a day and bunny hop between friends’ homes. It would be a terrific chance to catch up with friends and the drive would be more manageable.
So, two weeks ago, I packed up the kids, kissed my hubby goodbye and hit the road South towards the snow.
My biggest worry was that the kids would get bored and fight alot. That certainly happened to an extent, but not as frequently as I had initially supposed.
What surprised me the most was that the most joy-filled moments were not museum visits or admiring breathtaking snow-covered mountain vistas but the simple shared experiences of journeying and playing together.
On the first day, when we stopped for a couple of hours break in Yamba, NSW, my eldest spontaneously came up with a unique way to mark every stop. We call it now his “X Marks the Spot dance!” He made a point of doing it at every major destination we visited on the road. Here’s the compilation:
We also had theme songs for our trip. I downloaded ABBA’s Greatest Hits and Coldplay’s latest album and we cruised along crooning “Money, Money Money!” and “Para, Para, Paradise!”
Son no. 1 is a little cross with me that he now walks around the house singing ABBA songs without realising it.
I also had the amazing opportunity to go skiing with Son no. 1 and 2. Son no. 3 didn’t take to the slopes with as much enthusiasm, but we each took in turns looking after him at the cafe while the others hit the slopes. My 13 year old and I decided to try a more difficult run and, later, I reflected that there aren’t that many things we both enjoy doing together. I relished the opportunity to connect with my big boy while weaving our way down the hillside.
The long hours in the car also gave us a chance to talk, and I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of my kids than I had before.
For instance, I learned that son no. 1 likes to document his experiences in images rather than in words and, like his mother, he sees the world through a creative framework. We’d be driving along and he’d pick the perfect theme song for the scene before us saying things like: “This feels like the end of a movie, so we need movie credit music.” He’d been asking for a camera for sometime, so in Canberra, I stopped to buy him one.
Being a highly active Autistic child, son no. 2 is a natural explorer. We spent many tense moments looking for him in various museums in Sydney and Canberra because he’d get bored and speed ahead of the rest of us. I learned I have to keep a close eye on him, but also need to keep him occupied with jobs and tasks so he doesn’t lose interest too quickly.
Son no. 3 is a thinker. He likes to take his time before diving in. This proved to be challenging for him on the ski slopes as he couldn’t take his time in the ski lessons. I learned that I need to prepare him more for what to expect and give him more support when he tries something new.
The biggest lesson of all was that I realised just how much I miss in our day-to-day lives. I’ve been working pretty hard lately and this break helped me to see how much I love spending time with my kids. On the trip home we resolved to do a few things differently. I decided to set some boundaries during my work week so that I can keep a better balance between time with my kids and time working. We all decided it would be fun to do more hiking outings, so we agreed we’d find some cool local hiking spots and do a hike at least once a month in the lead up to our New Zealand trip later in the year. I also saw how valuable it was just to hang out with my kids and our friends.
We can’t do road trips all the time, but the experiences we share can help us connect on a deeper level. If you’re feeling a little disconnected from your kids, I encourage you to get out of the house and do something together, even if it is just a trip to the beach, to a national park or a local playground.
What do you do to connect as a family? What have shared experiences taught you about your family/yourself? Feel free to share below.