I heard a sermon on Mother’s Day when Big Brother was just about six months old and it has influenced my parenting approach substantially. Many Mother’s Day sermons talk about Mary or Moses’ mother or any of the wonderful women in the Bible extolling the value of motherhood and the qualities we possess as mothers.
This one was a little different. The preacher-man described the influence a mother can have on the whole family – for good or bad. I was reminded of the phrase we often hear that “when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s always been a kind of reminder to keep mom happy. However, this perspective described how mothers can either bring the rain or the sunshine. Basically, either I can get it together and find a good attitude to keep things fun and positive or I can be a walking cloud and bring everyone down.
I recently went camping at 23 weeks pregnant with my third child. We simultaneously started a renovation on our house. So much has happened between those two sentences that I feel like I’m going to have to write this in installments.
I suppose I should start by reassuring everyone that my husband is not an ogre who forced me to sleep in a tent in 20 degree weather while I was with child. In fact, I love camping. It was one of the prerequisites in choosing my husband. He isn’t a diehard Gator fan, but he will sleep outside.
My family has camped in North Carolina every summer since I was three. At least, until Sarah and I were in college and then had to get jobs and stuff. Big Brother is three (four in December) and Little Brother will be two next month. Mom and Dad were already planning to take their hotel fifth wheel RV up to Bent Creek, NC so we decided to tag along.
It was amazing. Even when our van broke down in Ocala and we had to come back delaying our trip a day, it was still amazing. The weather was gorgeous and I was able to practice having a good attitude even when things don’t go as planned.
Saturday morning, we pulled out of Dunkin’ Donuts and got on the highway headed for the hills and I was so happy to be leaving our packed up house and going on a real vacation that I almost started crying. Our wonderful contractor will be using the time while we aren’t home to put in new windows, French doors in our kitchen nook (so, a hole in the wall), new countertops, new lights throughout the house, painted cabinets and built-in shelves in the playroom. So yes, our couch was in LB’s bedroom, our dining table was in his closet, all of our dining chairs were in BB’s bedroom and the piano, TV and our hutch was in our bedroom. My entire kitchen was nestled somewhere in the garage and our living area was completely empty. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to leave. Oh yeah, we had also just finished hunkering down during a hurricane.
Our plan is to drive up to Stone Mountain in Georgia to catch the laser show and do some climbing. We have a room booked in Duluth where we’ll stay before finishing up the last four hours on the road to North Carolina. Ty and I have been wanting to do this with the kids for a few years and it’s finally working out!
But somewhere south of Ocala, we felt a big bump. Ty and I looked at each other nervously not wanting to alarm the other, but it was pretty obvious something was wrong with the van. It bumped and heaved along I-75 in an alarming way. I began to look for an AutoZone close to the interstate. Ty thinks maybe it’s a spark plug gone wrong and it will be an easy fix. We pull off the interstate and I pray at each red light that the car doesn’t just shudder and die. I’m gripping the arms of my seat but I am audibly calm…ish.
We find an AutoZone and I get the kids out to play in the patch of dirt surrounding one oak tree in the parking lot. They are having a blast. They have sticks, there is a tree they can poke and oh look! A hole in the tree, I wonder what’s in there? Ants. Ok, no big deal, they’re not fire ants, but let’s leave the hole alone anyway.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to not nag Ty with my eyes. He is now hanging over the engine with the manual he had brought. But there’s good news: it’s just a $60 part and Ty can fix it there in the parking lot. Oh wait. Actually, it looks like he would need to take the engine apart to get to the spark plug. I do a search for a Firestone. We call and it’ll be about two hours. Ok, ok, I can do this. My kids are happy, why should I be the one in the family to throw a fit?
We get to the Firestone around 11 a.m. I grab a backpack of the emergency snacks I packed to keep the kids happy in the car and cheerfully remind the kids that Firestone usually has a little toy box. Yes, even waiting at a repair shop can be fun!
An hour goes by and we find out that actually it’ll be a two hour wait from then. I spy a yummy looking Latin Café across the street and encourage Ty that a good lunch will kill some time and distract me the kids.
We scurry across a street that reminds me a lot of 17-92. There’s a sign on the door saying they are closed but it also says they are open at 9 a.m. on Saturdays. We open the door and everyone inside looks confused. We are also confused. He asks us what we want. I try not to open my mouth since I know my confusion will sound like aggressive sarcasm. I mean, how politely can I answer that? Food? Duh? Ty asks if we can have a sandwich…?
The owner explains that all of his meat is frozen. Because of the hurricane.
Oh right, there was a big hurricane. Yesterday. I forgot.
Ok cool, we’ll eat some of the snacks in my backpack at the picnic table in front of the window tinting shop.
The kids are beside themselves with glee at the discovery of trail mix. It’s a first for them. This trip holds a long list of firsts and these experiences are what make vacations so special. The moments of firsts and all the times your car doesn’t work. Those two experiences are why we vacation.
After we snack for a bit, we head back to the shop for some air conditioning. Meanwhile, the Firestone has become a greenhouse. It is a large room with floor-to-ceiling windows and I am now baking. The man in the waiting room has turned on CNN, so naturally we discussed the discouragement that is the 2016 election. For an hour. At least.
At this point, my happy children have become bored children and are exploring what happens when you play with display banners and play hide and seek in a repair shop. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to bring in my computer which is loaded with some Charlie Brown classics. They are entertained for about 20 minutes.
Eventually, the manager comes over to us holding something that looks like a large screw. He explains that the oil dripping down the part is from the engine which means a head gasket is blown. This is all gibberish to me. When can I get to the mountains, that’s all I want to know.
“You’re taking this back to Winter Springs, right?” he asks Ty.
“No, we’re going to North Carolina,” I say. Thus far, I have been ignored as the woman in this duo and perhaps our plans have not yet been made clear.
“No, you’re going to Winter Springs,” he says to me with a definitive look. I stare back willing him to walk away before I cause him bodily harm.
Ty and I look at each other speechless. I know he knows we should go back and he doesn’t want to tell me. But…we can’t go back. We’re on vacation! We’ve packed up all our worldly belongings, driven up the Turnpike and headed for Stone Mountain. I had been debating on whether I should get in touch with a few friends I have in Georgia to get together. I am now glad I didn’t because…we weren’t going.
There was a moment where Ty was about to cancel our entire vacation, but I couldn’t handle that. Our home was a construction zone and the mountains were calling. I needed to go. There were so many things to introduce the boys to: s’more’s, making a fire, hiking, peeing outside. We had to go.
The hurricane was literally an act of God because it delayed my parents leaving by a day allowing us to use their extra car. So all we had to do was drive back to Orlando, switch cars and try this all again the next day.
But how could I tell my kids we were going back home? No laser show? They would be crushed!
But I had to do it. I turned to my eldest and calmly told him we were going to have to go back home to get Poppy’s car to drive to the mountains. This means we won’t be able to go to Georgia today.
“But,” he said tremulously, “does that mean we don’t get to go to McDonald’s?”
And therein lies my lesson for the day. Thank you son for reminding me of what is important (food) and that everything can be a fun experience if you make it one.
My kids giggled in their carseats with their nuggets as we drove home pointing out all the signs and asking questions about trains. I wanted to be sad and be comforted but if my three year old can manage his emotions with self-control then I sure can too. We left for the mountains the next day and even made it to the Stone Mountain park (15 minutes before it closed) to climb to the top before sunset.