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Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: Road trip

Posted June 30, 2013

It is a rite of passage for every child — the summer road trip.

Back in the 1970s, most of us traveled in the rear of a station wagon with no air conditioning. We lie on the hot, bumpy metal surface produced when the “rumble seat” was folded down flat and played cards or read comic books.

Sometimes, we slept, our necks craned to get comfortable on lumpy pillows our father had thrown in from the guestroom linen closet. Other times we stared out the window at the rolling farm lands unfolding in front of us thinking about how we could not be more bored. We hung our heads out the back window, and prayed for a breeze. Our parents listened to their radio stations. There were no snacks, just meal breaks on our parents’ schedule, not ours.

These days, many kids travel in plush SUVs with comfortable seats, air conditioning, and DVD players. They are armed with Nintendos, iPods, iPads and phones. Mothers usually pack a legion of snacks and drinks easily accessible to the junior passengers. When they ask for a bathroom break or a meal, the requests are usually granted in a timely fashion.

Let’s face it — they don’t know how good they have it.

But even with all the changes over time, there is still something fundamentally magical about that moment when you pull out of the driveway, the car piled high with luggage, toys, groceries, maybe a dog or two, bound for adventure. While the methods of the journey may have changed over the years, the goal remains the same, new experiences shared together as a family.

Sometimes, as parents, we spend so much time planning for the journey that we blink and it’s over. This year, as we travel to New Jersey, the girls are already watching a movie. The mountain of gear towers over them in the back of the car filling every available spot. The dog has made peace with a small space wedged in between the seats. I can smell a bag of popcorn the girls have already opened even though we just pulled out of the driveway 15 minutes ago.

I hope that this year I will savor every moment of the journey. As I look back at their sweet faces encased in headphones being stuffed with popcorn, I realize the road trip days are finite, and I must not miss a moment.

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.


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  • snowl Jul 1, 2013

    Lucky for you, I have no "feel good memories" of any road trips.
    I suffer from worse-case scenario motion sickness, and went along with my family on many a summer road trip....I could not eat, read, or play games. I just wanted to get out of that car so I could feel better! Happy trails to you, the lucky ones.

  • ncst8mpa Jul 1, 2013

    Amanda, you left out a very important difference between now and 30+ years ago. We weren't tied down by seatbelts and stuffed into car seats. We'd go from footwells to the seat, over the seat, into the back and then do it all over again. Not so today.

  • pisgah2005 Jul 1, 2013

    A beautiful post, Amanda, and timely! I too enjoy the road trip. My husband plans the logistics of the trip (destinations, directions, lodging), and I am responsible for packing the snacks, diversions, toys, etc. It's a role I really enjoy. I try to give our son a good balance of electronics, books and magazines, and toys suitable for the car. We play music to suit all tastes (or at least suit some tastes some of the time!) I pack trivia cards from board games and we play our own version of $25,000 Pyramid and Jeopardy. The driver can join in these games too, so the drive isn't so monotonous. Safe travels to you!

  • lec02572 Jul 1, 2013

    You have learned what life is about, "family time." Enjoy the time.