I am now a certified tough guy. Wrestling alligators? A cake walk. Running into a burning building? Nothing to it. Facing the heat of battle? Child’s play. What I did this past week makes the most hardened outlaw bikers blanch with sheer terror and cry for their mommies. What is it, you may ask, that puts me up there with Navy Seals and Spartan soldiers? I took a road trip with my wife. To Florida. With the kids. That’s right. I hope they don’t censor this blog just for mentioning it; I might be accused of inducing widespread panic among the general population.
It’s like this: I love my family, and I enjoy getting a chance to see them now and again. The last time I saw my mom and sister was in November when they came up to my 40th birthday party. Believe it or not, seeing my mom twice in the same 12-month period is huge for me. My family is the go-off-to-seek-your-fortune type, so we’ve never been huge on family reunions. Heck, there have been stretches of two and three years when I have no idea if my brother is even alive, but that’s another story. Anyway, Jen and I made ready, went to the airport and rented a van, and hit the road with the kids. All four of them. For the first real family vacation we’ve had. So you see? I’m a complete badass.
Okay, so maybe I’m using just the slightest hint of hyperbole. But have you ever ridden for 10 hours in a minivan with four kids from two families? The kids range in ages from 18 down to 7. The 18 year-old was no stress at all; he brought his own items along to keep himself occupied. Believe it or not, the 7 year-old was the second easiest passenger. She had her personal DVD player and was just thrilled to be heading to Florida, when she wasn’t sleeping. Her needs were simple and basic and when those needs were met, she was a happy camper. No, the real challenges were the 14 and 15 year-olds. When not backseat driving or whining, they were sniping at each other. This, of course, is what makes both Jen and I monumental toughies. We managed to keep them in check (for the most part) and didn’t let their attitudes and snappishness ruin our trip. They did, of course, get on our nerves, but we kept our cool. At no time did either of us utter those dreaded words, “DON’T MAKE ME STOP THIS VAN!” That’s right, we absolutely rocked. We are now the Lord and Lady of the Interstate.
You learn a lot about one another as a couple when you take trips like this. If you haven’t discussed ways to deal with family conflict, you’ll be shellshocked when it happens to you. A family trip can be a real test of your understanding and tolerance of one another, and can help you gain insight into and respect for how the other deals with their children. There were several moments that allowed Jen and me to share things with each other and gain knowledge regarding how we feel about our kids. That’s another thing that a trip like this can do for a couple who are remarried: it can make you more of a parenting team. What was once his and hers becomes ours. We’re not perfect, but we know what we’re capable of. Who knows, maybe someday we'll even rate being called "parents" by the others' kids instead of "my mom's/dad's husband/wife."
On a side note, Jen and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary while we were in Florida. We’re going strong and are more in love than when we got married. Sappy, but true.