On Saturday, I traveled for nine hours in the minivan with three kids (10 and under) through four states. I also had my first spending the night in a hotel experience as Single Mom (for this trip I mean...I didn't leave Mark or anything :). Throughout that time, I learned a few lessons. Here they are in no particular order...
- Always, and I mean ALWAYS, check to make sure you have all of the components needed for watching a movie on a trip, especially when it is a nine hour trip (that you thought would just take 7). Otherwise, you might pull over at a gas station in Missouri after holding the kids off for an hour and a half only to discover that when the PS2 was hooked up to the t.v. for watching movies (since the darn DVD player doesn't actually work and is way too costly to replace), the controller stayed at home which is the ONLY way you can actually "play" a movie. Oh, and Target, as much as I love that store, does NOT carry PS2 controllers. Only PS3 which are NOT compatible. (I have since found one at Gamestop and hope it will work when we return home)
- I am a nervous driver. I have always been. I passed my driving test but the officer who gave it to me told my dad I was "too cautious". Not that I am a perfect driver. Driving with kids has not helped me in anyway. Constant distractions. But I try to be cautious. And driving through places like Kansas City, Lincoln, and Omaha had my knuckles turning white and my hair turning gray. Which goes along with another lesson...
- I miss my pilot. I am the co-pilot. I keep the calm in the car, pick up dropped items, google directions, etc. Mark drives. And he is not a nervous driver. When I am driving and have no co-pilot, things are just awry. Plus when J-man drops something and screeches his displeasure which he enjoys doing just for fun, I get to endure the screeches until the next stop. I also miss having a Daddy to take a little boy to the restroom.
- Public bathrooms, whether at restaurants, the zoo, or the hotel, were NOT built for little people. In fact, they make them higher and higher I think. Which means that the only way for little people to wash their hands is to stop what I am doing to hold them up. And just because they are "little people" does not mean they are light!
- You find help where you can. Like when the hotel pool (outside) is beyond freezing and the weather is not extremely hot but your little boy is not old enough to be in the hot tub which is more your temp, you can sweetly ask an uncle or a cousin's husband to just let the little boy jump into them a time or two...because there is NO way my big toe was getting wet in that ice water.
- It is really hard to carry food/drinks for four with only two hands. Thankfully the girls helped out some but it was still a task.
- If one person has to go (whether to the restroom or down to the car at the hotel to get that one item your child was positive he/she brought in, then we all have to go. I am pretty sure I got my exercise in this past weekend.
- Along the same lines, you have to be strategic. My main goal in a hotel anytime but especially on my own with kids is to NOT disturb other guests or have security called on us. I totally get this concept. My kids have not. So when I need to take a shower or use the restroom, I have to be strategic. Even just two minutes of my absence can result in total chaos when the kids get into a wrestling match or decide to jump on the beds with glee. So, for bathroom breaks or for changing clothes, I had to find seats for each child to sit on, as far away as possible from one another. And the shower didn't happen until late after they were all asleep. Even then I tried to be as quick as possible.
- You feel like odd man out being single in a world of marrieds. Let me preface this by saying that it was no way intentional; everyone included me and was very helpful and encouraging. But when you are constantly trying to keep up with a busy boy or helping a sick daughter or supervising your little swimmers on your own, then you can't help but miss out on some conversations. There is nobody to turn to and say, "Hey, can you play with him/her here while I go chat for a bit..."
- I am capable of doing things on my own. Unloading a car, filling my gas tank up, finding new places on a map, handling discipline on my own. I can do it. I am stronger than I look. And if that is the life God gives me at some point, I would do it with His strength. But I will also say that I prefer not to. Mark and I are a team, and when it is just one of us, something key is missing (both ways). He is the one who can take over when I have answered the millionth question for the day or who can crack a joke when I am emotionally drained. We are surviving but missing Daddy (and the big kid) like crazy!