Family, Travels

Cool Mom’s Guide To Long Road Trips with Teens and Tweens

I’m going to start by saying my kids are fifteen, thirteen and ten and tend to be in an anti-Mom mood most of the time. If you are reading this and you have teens, you know, if your kids are younger, hang onto your britches and enjoy how easily they are distracted by something new, like a box of crayons and singing songs.

In April we drove 15 hours to South Carolina, not our first rodeo, but I still learned a thing or two and wanted to share.

Pre-trip:

  • Make them pack their own “car” bags- water bottle, snacks, book, headphones, etc. Each kid having his/her own music to listen to saved all our sanities.
  • You yourself pack a kid’s car bag with extra snacks 🙂
  • Buy/unearth your neck and or travel pillows- teens don’t nap you say…or do they?! They do on long road trips.
  • Make sure any autistic kid you have with hearing sensitivities has noise canceling headphones.
  • Shove a few plastic bags in the car door for trash and/or upset stomachs from motion sickness and bring the Dramamine.
  • Travel wipes too!

During trip:

  • Leave early, as in when the kids can still get in some sleeping hours before sunrise. We left at 3 a.m.
  • Have a sense of humor! They will moan and groan sometimes and smiling at them or cracking jokes helped a lot. Joking about our creative stories involving the cars and people around us was a life saver during traffic times.
  • Involve them. Obviously if they are under 16 they can’t drive, but let them be involved in some of the route choices, where to stop and give them a heads up about what’s coming up along the route.
  • Have a clipboard, pencil and some worksheets printed out. This is something I use to do when they were little, but now I just change up what I print. I found on Pinterest some activities, such as a list of states to circle when we found the license plate for that state (found a ton!), a map of the U.S. so they could highlight the states they have been to (especially helpful when crossing lots of borders) and fun facts about the location hot spots we were headed to.

Trip home: this was harder since we were all a bit overtired and not nearly as excited because we were ending our vacation:

  • Save some of their favorite fast food restaurants for the way home, something to look forward to.
  • If returning to school after the trip, count down the days until the next vacation and/or end of the school year. If it’s summer, talk about the fun stuff planned in the week or two ahead.
  • Expect at least one tantrum per person, adults included :/
  • Make sure everyone is well hydrated, even if it means more potty breaks. I always find after a trip we tend to be dehydrated, combat it before even getting home. Everyone feels better.
  • Don’t plan anything for the rest of the day upon getting home, even the day after depending on when you get home and how long the drive was. Learn from me here please. It never goes well.

Hope these lists are helpful! What would you add?

Essays

Essay #9: Sink or Swim

I have been sharing personal essays on my journey with autism with my daughters, on mom life, grief and mental health. Most essays are from life in fall of 2017. WARNING: my essays contain cursing. I hope they make you smile, I hope they make you cry, I hope to spread an understanding of high functioning autism and mostly I hope they allow other moms to not feel alone. Names have been changed for privacy. To read previous essays click on the Essays category tab at the end of the blog post.

Hot pink skirt lol

Mind inflicted fasting occurring again. Why does my brain do this to me? As though I want to punish my loved ones for being shitty to me so I stop eating, thinking it’ll somehow hurt them, which is ridiculous because for one, they don’t even notice and two, I’m only causing myself to suffer. Sucking energy and life out of my body, giving my brain an excuse to tell my body to go to bed and ignore everyone and be nonexistent. I might just be a crazy person.

Others may start to agree. I chopped my hair off. My naturally curly hair was becoming a heavy weight on my head, a large poofy frizzy helmet I wore everyday. After seeing myself in a few photos lately I decided the hair needed an upgrade. I cut off close to eight inches. No one has even noticed, maybe two people, and that makes me kind of sad and kind of happy no one pays attention. I read once, watch out for a woman who drastically changes her hair, she is changing her life. Damn right. I needed to feel fresher and simple and light. That’s my goal right now, be lighter.

Over the weekend I felt controlled by a lot of people and I was angry being pulled in a million directions. Yanked between my PTO President duties, my teachers at my preschool, my family and my extended family and plus some friends, it was a tug of war with everyone needing a slice of my time. I’m the only one who is the boss of my physical self and my look and I think that’s why I cut my hair, I needed to have some semblance of control. It’s like I’m a toddler whose parents are trying to potty train, I control my body, not you. Monday came and I said, “that’s it! I control me, fuck you all, fuck this messy hair, let’s change it all!”

I feel like I’m drowning and everyone is pushing me under deeper and deeper. I want to swim and feel the sun, be my own center of light and love and let all flow from that place. I want people to feel love and joy when they are around me, not the stress and grumpiness I’m exuding lately. I have control over how I present myself to the world, which includes how I look and feel. If I’m honest with myself I care a lot about how I look. I’ve always loved fashion and wanted to look stylish and cute. As moms we get bashed, usually by other moms, if we care too much about those things. There is a general mom style out there that exudes an I’m not trying too hard look to give the impression you care just enough. I’m the one who rolls in with a hot pink skirt and it’s simply because it makes me happy. I find it fun. I’ve heard moms talk about other moms with comments like “oh she cares too much about her looks” or “she’s too focused on herself.” God fucking forbid we have a hobby or care about something other than our children! Shame on us. From the experts I’ve talked to as of late it is a wonderful idea to have a hobby that doesn’t involve your children. I read in front of them, exercise, paint, write, all in front of my daughters. They need to know hobbies and interests are important. Amen. Okay, off my soap box.

I think I need a dumpster, both physically and mentally. Journal writing is my mental dumpster. I started when Olive was a few months old and it became a habit that I can’t live without. It keeps me afloat. I dumped the extra hair on my head that was weighing me down. Now a physical garbage dumpster to throw shit away so my house will be more airy and less cluttered and feel more like a haven then a clutter zone. Goals.

Had to take the girls for flu shots and spent hours at the doctor’s office. HOURS. Simply because of Olive and Laurel being dramatic and screaming when the pediatrician came close with the needle. They were winning the Academy Award for best actresses in the preteen unnecessary horror side show category. Ruby was simple and had an attitude like “what the heck is your problem?” I was all for holding them down and jabbing it in but the doctor was more politically correct. I pulled out every trick in the book, bribery, sweet talking, yelling, stickers, commanding voice, nothing was working. The pediatrician told them it was time to close up shop and all go home, they would have to come back again. That did it, the thought of returning and reliving this escapade was enough for them to sit still and get it over with. Thank the Lord.

The three of them have been fairly healthy I have to say. I’ve been putting immunity essential oils on their wrists every day, maybe it helps. At least it makes them smell good. Sometimes bath and shower time at night sounds too exhausting for me and we kind of just do a quick washcloth cleaning and call it a night. Actually that’s a lie, we are lucky if there’s a washcloth involved. The days have felt long. I have been going 14 hours without taking of my shoes or bra and I moan as I slide them off. I’m forgetful, fidgeting more and losing hair. When you look up those symptoms you will find them under characteristics of depression. I would pride myself on my master anxiety hiding skills and that’s getting harder with all this crap, but you know what? No one is looking anyway.

I’m in the research generation, that’s what I’m deeming those of us in midlife with children. We have parenting information at our fingertips and we know too much. Ignorance was bliss for our parents and grandparents. Now we are being told what to do and not to do about every aspect of parenting and child development. We micromanage every minute of the day trying to follow the right guidelines and current research to make sure we aren’t fucking up our kids. Well guess what? We are fucking up our kids. I see it at the preschool too, no one wants little James to even get a scratch on him. How are they suppose to learn if they never are allowed to mess up in the first place? That’s why my girls freak out when they don’t do something perfect on the first try, they expect everything to be easy because we made it that way for them. No more. We are going to be a house of fuck ups and spills and miss steps. I don’t want their mental health to suffer from anxiety over doing things wrong.

I read an article about an 11 year old girl who committed suicide. Eleven! What? She was being bullied at school. Holy shit. I have so many questions when I hear about these things. Did her parents know about the bullying? Did the school know? Did the girl talk to anyone about it? Did she have autism or depression? Did her family go to church? Were her parents crappy or too demanding? I need to know! I worry for my girls, especially since I felt like leaving this world as a teen. I had faith though, I had a strong conviction in God’s plan for me and my future. I hope my daughters have that faith and know how much they are loved. It will get better, I promise my babies.

I managed to also squeeze in this week a visit to Gram, who is at a nursing home now and it’s much closer than her apartment was and that makes me happy, I can see her more. We now know she will never leave there and go home and no one has told her that. My mom and aunts and uncles want Gram to hold onto some hope she will be go home. Plus I think they really believe if they tell her we are cleaning out her apartment she will literally try to escape and find a way home, she’s that stubborn. I love hearing her talk about the past and times when she was younger. Yesterday we talked about the holidays and she was telling me they always had parties and use to get a stripper to come! I spit out my coffee and was all, “WHAT?!” She said Grandpa used to like them. I died laughing. She got all serious after that and told me, “you have to do that Jan, have good times that outweigh the bad. Make time for the good.” My laughter turned to tears. Then she started singing to me. We were sitting in the dining room and it had a beautiful view of the autumn trees, like we were on top of them. She sang On Top of the World. I don’t need to go to a therapist, I only need to be with Gram. She keeps me afloat.