July 2014

Guest Publisher's View: Road Trip Jealousy

Shelah Moss

Today my friend posted “North or South?” on her social networking site. I knew what that meant: she was getting ready to grab her son, get in the car and enjoy the day. Jealousy crept into my heart. My friend and I are at different stages of our parenting adventure. My daughter is grown; her son is a young boy. It’s a pleasure to see my friend and her son enjoying his childhood. It reminds me of when my daughter was small and we, too, would jump in the car on our way to another adventure. 

I miss those times. They remind me of when I was a child, and my family would take road trips. I miss those vacations, even though my oldest sister, Elise, often got carsick, which dampened the pleasure a bit, but made for great teasing later. Road trips make lasting memories, and drew us together.

When I was a child my parents would pile the four—ultimately five—of us into the car and go. When I say, “pile in the car” I mean that literally. This was before the days of child car seats and mandatory seatbelts. My brother, Steven, and I often occupied the back of the station wagon, and made up games to play involving unwitting cars passing by on their own road trip. The drive itself was sometimes torturous, involving a father who drove too fast, terrifying my next oldest sister. The smell of old vomit from Elise often made itself known. Steven and I would often squirm because my father was in too much of a hurry to stop for bathroom breaks. But the destination was always worth the trip, and the memories, good and bad, are lasting a lifetime.

When my daughter, Liisa, was younger, I’d pile her in the car—it was a small pile since she’s an only child—and go on our own road trip. It didn’t matter where we went, whether it was to a museum, to another town or to spend the day at the beach. 

The destination was never the most important thing; the time spent together was the real destination. I used to call those moments “time out of time.” They were the moments when the rest of the world fell away, when all that mattered was who we were with, and having fun. There were no hard and fast rules to those road trips. If we passed a place that looked interesting, we stopped. If we felt like having a picnic, we did. Driving home from a road trip in a rain storm one time, Liisa said that she felt like dancing in the rain, so we stopped and danced.

Liisa is grown-up now. I’m fortunate that she’ll still take road trips with me. But it’s not the same. Our road trips usually include more restaurants than picnics, more manicures than rain dances. Her own road trips have become more sophisticated, involving planes and travels to far-away places; dancing in the rain with other people. And that makes me happy, too.

Now, I pile in the car with my husband to enjoy our own road trips. It reminds me of a time before children, a time of romance and adventure and that makes me happy.

But today I’m jealous of my friend. I’m jealous that she gets her own road trip to make more memories with her child.

Thank goodness for grandchildren. 

Shelah Moss works with autistic children. For more of her musings, as well as tips and exercises for kids with special needs, go to mosswoodconnections.com. Steven Moss, Shelah’s older brother, will return with his Publisher’s View next month.

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