Running over the Dream: How I stopped dreaming and faced reality about long car trips

by Peg McGuire –

This year, I promise that I will not dream. I will face reality, the hard truths.


This year, I will NOT think our family vacation – 15 hours in a car from Roanoke to the Ozarks in Missouri – will be picture-perfect, filled with happy memories of mom and dad and two delightful children singing songs and playing the license plate game.

Instead, I will be honest about what this car trip really is: Parental purgatory, a chance to work off my sins of the past, probably committed during a road trip as a child.


The Internet says it will take 15 hours from our home in Virginia to our cabin in the Ozarks. The Internet is wrong because the Internet has not met my children.

My two boys will fight every two hours like clockwork. My youngest will have to pee every six minutes. They will need to be fed every 45 minutes or they will pretend to pass out and die. And every single electronic device in the car will lose battery power at the exact same time causing them to scream in agony. I’m sure one of my children, if not both, will throw at least one of their shoes out a car window.


This isn’t a 15-hour trip, my friends. This is an odyssey designed to send us careening off the edge of reason. Halfway through the trip, I’ll either decide to walk the rest of the way or tie them to the roof, give them windbreakers and eye-gear and hope for the best.*


I will try to avoid the known disasters. Carefully planned activities will be organized and packed so they are easy-to-reach. Healthy, high-protein, snacks will be measured out and stored nicely in a cooler they can access. I will read all the important books from important parenting experts on how to help our children handle their “big feelings.” I will  practice calming words like “Oh sweetie, it’s okay. Your brother won’t really tie you to the bumper. I promise.”


I will try, my friends. I really will.


But I won’t hope. I know that somewhere in Kentucky, my husband will pull over and we will exit the van. Our children will still be in the car, with the air conditioning running, negotiating a forced peace treaty. We will pull out our lawn chairs and crack open books. My husband and I will eat their snacks and I’ll drink my Diet Dr. Pepper and watch as other parents exit their cars, dropping cuss words like drones over a terrorist camp. We’ll raise our drinks to them, nod, and give them a thumbs up.


We will bond with the other parents and exchange phone numbers. “In case of emergency,” we’ll say to each other, “text me. I’ll talk you out of selling your children to the circus.”


We’ll assure one another that, yes, our kids will have happy memories of these road trips and that all our planning hasn’t been for naught. Because one day, our children will have children of their own and they will plan long car trips. That’s when we’ll show up just as they finish packing the car. We’ll give them hugs and wish them traveling mercies. Then, we’ll feed our grandchildren copious amounts of sugar and slip a latte into their sippy cups. As they pull away from the curb, we’ll laugh. Hysterically.


Payback, my friends. Payback will be sweet.


(I’m kidding! However, if you’re so inclined, please design a rooftop carrier for children.)

Josh Eagan

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