I grew up in a traveling family. Road trips, day trips, Europe, Bahamas, – the six of us tried just about everything (except camping—that’s punishment, not a vacation). There was one time we rented a motor home and that was considered “roughing it”, but that’s another story for another day.
Now I am the matriarch of my own family of six and I remember fondly the trips of my childhood and ponder: how did my parents do it?
Years back my older brother invited us to visit him and his family. They live nine hours away. Once I stopped laughing I explained to him that on a good day I can maybe make a trip to Old Navy without someone melting down in the car.
The year before we had our first son we crammed in a Spring Break cruise to the Caribbean and a cross-country trek to western Canada with a return journey through the US. Talk about going out with a bang! On some level we must have known our carefree days were coming to an end.
Travelling with four young boys still happens, we have just adjusted our itineraries to include destinations within a three-hour radius. We’ve gone to Niagara Falls, Marineland, beaches, Centreville Island, even over the border to Michigan.
All of our post-children travels have been mostly incident-free (and without a DVD player or other devices—we like to keep it old school). Who needs to watch a movie when you can play car games like “I’m going on a trip and I’m taking….” or “I Spy” (less successful) and my personal favorite, “Who can be quiet the longest?” When all else fails you have a brother within arm’s reach who you can pester talk to.
Last summer we decided to go to Greenview Aviaries Park and Zoo in Ridgetown, Ontario. We were meeting my parents there for the day and had heard very good things (all of which are true—if it’s within your travel radius and you have young children, go there. We are going back again this summer).
It has everything you want in a day trip to that type of venue: a zoo full of domestic and exotic animals, trampolines, ball pit, sand pit, slides, swings, climbers, zip line, splash pad, a Miniature Shakespeare Village, picnic areas, and shade. All for one price.
As parents, we appreciate that they do not have anything gimmicky for sale so there is no begging for a souvenir. Although there is a restaurant on site, they allow you to bring your own food, so that keeps the price down as well. And no little darlings harass you for cotton candy or French fries because they are just so hungry. Did I mention the splash pad?
Pro tip: If the thought of a ball pit makes you squeamish, might I suggest you drop your little sweeties in there first. Maybe follow that up with some time in the sand area (there are big diggers all around for messy fun). And finish it all up with a run through the splash pad—decontamination taken care of (you’re welcome).
The day at the zoo was quite memorable, in fact the boys still talk about it almost a year later. But what I recall most (aside from standing beside my dad when the lions decided it was time for a little afternoon delight) was the drive there.
We were barely out of city limits when I realized there is no holiday from parenting.
Those are udders. They are for milk, no, not pee. Stop it.
It’s a cornfield. It is. You can argue that it’s not, but it is corn. I know things. BECAUSE I AM A GROWN UP. It’s corn.
We’ll get there when we get there.
Nobody “cut one”. Stop blaming your little brother. It’s manure. Yes, fine, poop. We’re not closing the windows, it’s part of the whole trip experience. Stop it.
We’ll get there when we get there.
We had a few other interesting exchanges between the front and back seats (I’m saving up for one of those Plexiglas sound-proof barriers).
If your eyes hurt, just close them. Well, try again. No, you don’t need drops. It’s called being sleepy.
We will get there WHEN WE GET THERE.
And we did get there. We were all in one piece and it was a wonderful day. This summer will be even better because we have memories to build on and new adventures to try. Adventures like camping. In a moment of weakness I agreed to try camping with our crew and our friends. The only thing getting me through this is the thought of s’mores. They allow wine on campsites, right?
I can already hear the stories the boys will tell:
Remember that time Mom singed her hair toasting us marshmallows?
Guys, guys, remember when we peed right beside the tent because the campground was scary?
I can still see Mom crying quietly behind the tree saying something about getting no sleep in these third world conditions.
Remember when Mom said she’d never go camping again? Oh, wait, she says that every year.
Travelling as a family is not about the destination, it’s about the memories.
Jan Moyer is a coffee-drinking mom of four boys, teacher of kindergarten, and wife of Bearded Husband. She blogs about all of that and more at toughbananasblog.wordpress.com and you can follow her on Twitter @moyermama