As I mentioned in my last post, I took a writing break at the end of the summer. I guess it would be folly to think I might in some way “catch up” on the end of vacation and transition back to school. However, while I know I won’t be able to recap everything, there was one incident in that time period I want to write about.
During our years as a family with two very young children, we didn’t get out much. We certainly didn’t go on family vacations. The thought of it made my whole body shudder. However, now that our kids are a little older, we’ve begun venturing into uncharted territory. In the last couple of years, we’ve taken the plunge a handful of times. Family vacations can be challenging in some ways, but we’re always glad we did it.
This year was no different. I’ve been really, really wanting to go to Story Land in Glen, NH for quite some time. This year, I finally got my husband to suspend his dislike of the Granite State… and we booked it.
Despite one day of torrential rain and hurricane-strength winds, we went and we had an awesome time. We spent two nights at the recently renovated AMC Lodge, and two nights at a family-style B&B where they showed movies every night in the media room and served chocolate chip waffles for breakfast. We hiked, swam in mountain streams, and of course, made our pilgrimage to Story Land. On Day 5, we loaded our tired but happy crew into the car for the long ride home.
The first couple of hours were uneventful. We had a peaceful drive through the White Mountains, stopped for lunch and to stretch our legs, then reloaded for the final stretch.
That’s when the trouble started.
Within 15 miles of our home, we hit major traffic. Construction plus an accident. Traffic came to a standstill. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach.
We were out of snacks, it had been hours since our last bathroom break, and all of the electronics (except the iPad) were out of batteries, and we were stuck. Fifteen miles from home. The thought of abandoning the car and walking the final stretch crossed my as a serious possibility.
And that’s when G started screaming. Not just whining or complaining, but full-body scream. As the final bit of battery juice drained from the iPhone, he looked up and realized we weren’t moving. He looked ahead of us, and saw the wall of cars. “My stomach hurts!!!!!” he bellowed at that top of his lungs, hurling the phone to the front of the car, narrowly missing David’s head. “My stomach hurts!! Let me out!!!!!”
In the space of two seconds, my emotions switched from frustration at the traffic to panic about G. I didn’t know why he was saying his stomach hurt. It was probably because he had to pee, but it could also be that he was hungry. Or maybe just bored. One thing for sure, it felt extremely unsafe to have a passenger yelling hysterically and throwing things from the back seat while my tired husband was navigating heavy traffic at the end of a five-hour drive.
And, in true panic fashion, I froze. I’m usually good in these situations, but I was fried and all my go-to solutions were unavailable. I didn’t have a snack to offer, or an electronic device, or a change of scenery. I froze.
And that’s when S saved the day. As I mentioned, the one electronic device that still had power was the iPad. But it was S’s turn, and she had waited a long time for it. The thought of asking (or bribing) her to hand it over, didn’t even occur to me. And yet, there she was, calmly searching the screen for G’s favorite game, the one with the silliest sounds, all the while talking to him in a soothing voice. “Hey, G, remember this game?” she crooned. “Look over here. I wonder what that silly alien is going to do next.” She patiently eased the iPad into G’s reluctant hands. Slowly, the screaming gave way to a hesitant giggle, as the sounds of beeps and bleeps filled the air.
I exhaled slowly, and began to release the tension in my shoulders. David edged our car onto an exit ramp, and we navigated the back roads to our house.
I’ve written about S before. I’ve written about the jealousy she feels towards G. I’ve also written about the anger and frustration she feels towards him when he acts in a way that seems mean or uncaring. I’ve written about the anger she feels towards me when I over-react to his accomplishments, and under-react to hers.
But in addition to the rivalry, and frustration, and very challenging moments… there is also a deep and powerful love between the two of them. In moments like the one in the car, I feel so profoundly grateful that G has such a thoughtful, caring sister to look out for him. And I feel so overwhelmingly proud of my sweet, compassionate daughter.