Do we really want to live life on the road in a trailer, or do we just want to escape?
That’s a question we asked ourselves a lot last winter & spring as we wrestled with whether or not this adventure was a good idea for our family. Here we are, roughly 6 weeks in, and I’m still not totally sure that I can answer that question yet.
I spent awhile pondering the question this evening (I’ve had some time to ponder such things because a stomach flu has made its way through our family, so I had hours to lay in bed, too sick to even be distracted by entertainment. And once the feverish visions of angry bunnies in the clouds and giant-eyed frog air conditioners on top of neighboring RVs subsided, I had some of that really great time of thinking about everything & nothing that I was hoping I might occasionally enjoy on this trek. Oh, the blessings of the stomach flu…)
Anyway….DO I enjoy this everyday life on the road so far? Is this the life I wanted instead of the routine I’d had for the past 11+ years? Honestly, I’m just not sure yet. I definitely don’t dislike this life. But it feels like maybe we are just at the end of transitioning into our new pace and routine. I’ve just started to think about things back “home” very longingly, but I wouldn’t say I’m full-blown truly missing life the way it was. I think some of the shiny & new has begun to wear off of the adventure, as the excitement from friends & family has waned, as we have settled into the rhythm of moving locations every few days, as we have shifted & expanded our roles within our tiny community of 4…there’s not much adrenaline left to it anymore. It’s just life. I think being sick in this tiny room that I can’t even stand up in for 24 hours made it feel much more like real life. And there was also the realization this week that visiting the National Parks with a 4 & 6 year old kinda makes me want to pull my hair out sometimes. Thank goodness for the Jr. Ranger Programs to give us something to stay focused on through the day!
I’ve realized a few things in the last week:
1. The girls are fighting & throwing fits SO MUCH LESS. And so am I, if i’m honest. The have had such good attitudes for the most part, and seem to do a lot less bickering & competing. They both seem to shine when given new responsibilities, and Sunny is especially stepping up to the plate to help (like when Brad & I both had the stomach flu at the same time, and I verbally walked her through the steps of making oatmeal in the microwave for herself & her sister…now she’s the microwave oatmeal queen!) It’s hard to totally describe, but in general their behavior is so much better – we have had multiple complete days with ZERO time outs, and other days with ZERO fits. This is a huge accomplishment for us.
2. I still feel just as busy as I ever did at home, which is silly because I’m not actually nearly as busy. This really validates for me a theory that Brad & I have that everyone has a busy-ness threshold where they prefer to operate at all times. (I think this is true of stress as well.) When things aren’t staying at that level, you just busy yourself with more things to get back to that level. At home I was constantly pulled a hundred directions – work stuff, church stuff, spend time with kids, prioritize our marriage, spend time with friends, plan worship, work some nights & weekends, etc etc. So it’s silly that I think of myself as busy because now my main to-do’s are homeschool the girls, plan & prepare meals, do laundry, & research campgrounds. So the only thing that is the same is the way my brain works & it’s default level of “busy-ness” that I assume to alway have. And one big thing that is different is that I am no longer shuffling my kids around from thing to thing or shoving them off to the side in the course of my busy-ness to fulfill all my various commitments. The girls & I are almost always together now. I am not blind to the fact that this directly correlates with my realization #1, on the contraray this is exactly what I hoped would happen on this trip. I am just excited to think that maybe we are already through the worst of the transition and have arrived at a better dynamic already, before even 2 months has gone by! The other day I was asking Sunny about some different options for her birthday coming up next week, and I offered to have a special “Sunny & Mom” day. She actually replied, “No, I’d rather have a family day.” Can I just say…this is REVOLUTIONARY and WONDERFUL! For Sunny’s entire life she has been stuck in a permanent “I can’t get enough Mom time all the time” mode. And while it might seem endearing to someone who’s never been the sole object of a small person’s affection for 6 years, it is actually exhausting for both Brad & me. So her response felt like a victory to me….like FINALLY, for ONCE, maybe I’m actually getting to spend as much time with her as she needs from me. I’m sure her need for Mom-time is also dropping with age, but hey…we Benjamin Buttoned each other & I’m cool with that.
3. The desire to “escape” is something hard-wired inside of me that will probably never go away. I’ve realized this because at one point this week during a long drive, Brad was saying some really sweet things about our marriage for the past 12 years and how it’s been the backdrop behind everything else being what it has been. And my reply was, “Oh, then maybe I should stop fantasizing about running away.” Brad guffawed and asked, “Didn’t we just do that?!” Yes. Yes, we did. But what mom doesn’t occasionally dream about running out the door & not coming back? Especially when you’re in front of a Park Ranger & they are asking your kids questions about things they’ve learned all day in the park. And your adorable little angels are supposed to say things like, “Our favorite part was learning about geology!” Or “We learned that black bears can be brown!” But instead they say things like…”My favorite part of this national treasure that people dedicated their lives to protecting is the stuffed animals in the gift shop!” And “Female deer have the antlers!” And “Mom, give me $5.00 out of your purse!” Really?! You’re demanding cash from me in front of the park ranger? I quit….
As I said….I’ve thrown less fits too, although there’s a chance that during our visit to Sequoia I might have said something along the lines of, “I quit my job to explore places like this so I really need you to just buck up.”
But the good stuff is way way outweighing the bad. I am so happy to be seeing all of these places that I’ve always wanted to see. I love the feeling of traveling light, and the stresses of trailering are becoming manageable. We had our first instance of having to pull over and fix something on the trailer with duct tape last week. When we got back in the truck & told Sunny what we’d done she exclaimed, “Oh no, already?! It’s only been a month!” Some days we are a bit ragged. Some days even a snack doesn’t fix our attitudes & we have to dig a bit deeper to be kinder to each other. Some days I still wonder if quitting a job that I loved and excelled at was a huge mistake. But I’ve seen some beautiful new skies and touched different kinds of trees. I’ve breathed in the air in so many new places and felt what it’s like to stand on new ground. And I love that my girls are confident enough to ride their bikes around campgrounds and ask grown-ups questions in stores instead of clinging to me as I say goodbye multiple times a day. I feel like that is the biggest and best achievement for us so far. Every day is not postcard worthy…but some of them are. And the ordinary ones are usually filled with more good than bad. So even though I miss filling the variety of roles I filled in Wenatchee, and I’m missing being with my social circle since my people are the most battery-charging, soul-filling part of my life, I’m feeling like I’m well suited for this adventure. And I am enjoying it a lot.