As I was packing the car yesterday morning, a friend walked by with her dog. She asked about our holiday travel plans and I told her that the girls and I were driving back to Cincinnati and that Ryan would fly up on Wednesday. “Awesome,” she said. “You’ll have so much fun bonding!” I laughed and we wished each other Happy Thanksgiving. And I thought, if bonding means that I will be driving, listening to my own podcasts and my daughters will be riding listening to their own shows, then yeah… we’re going to have so much fun bonding.
I mean, it’s kind of like a girls’ trip.
But not really.
It still feels very much like a family road trip.
As we pulled out of the driveway, I thought about how different road trips are now. No more wrenching my neck, sitting in the turned-around position doling out snacks, reading books and restocking the DVD player, no more sign game, no more seeing how many different license plate’s we could find. Of course, I’m delighted not to be in a constant state of reaching back, but I also miss the interaction. I miss the laughing. I miss the sign game. I totally rocked the sign game!
But as we made our way back to Cincinnati, I realized that we were bonding… it just looked different now that they’re older.
It looked like listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast interview of Michelle Obama and realizing that both girls had taken out their earbuds and were listening too. Feeling equally moved, sharing their thoughts about it. (Side note: I feel very strongly that it doesn’t matter which way you lean politically, everyone should listen to this podcast. It is compelling and entertaining, inspiring and funny.)
It looked like reaching around the back of my seat to squeeze my daughter’s leg. I immediately had this memory of my dad’s hand reaching behind his seat during one of our many family road trips. His big, meaty paw that is more baseball mitt than hand, wiggling his fingers for my hand to squeeze. I can remember being tickled by it when I was younger and annoyed by it when I was older, but laughing anyway. It was just a tiny hand-hug, but it was something… and as us parents of teenagers know— we will always take the something, no matter how tiny.
It looked like me driving in the lane directly next to giant semi trucks. Which feels like— duh, Heather, of course you drove near giant semi trucks. But I’m telling you that I deeply despise driving in the lane next to giant semi trucks, especially on the highway (because everyone is going so fast) and also especially in the mountains (because… you know, mountains). And guess what is mostly between Atlanta and Cincinnati? Highways and mountains. And a lot of giant semi trucks. It’s a nerve-wracking situation and it makes me sweaty and super clenchy. At some point toward the end of the drive, Kate said, “You did great driving today, Mom.” Totally bonding.
It looked like a conversation about the movie, My Sister’s Keeper that Emma had watched in her Healthcare class and couldn’t get out of her head. I have never read the book, so she told me all about it and we had this really interesting discussion about it all. It’s a heart wrenching and controversial story, as most of Jodi Picoult’s books are (which is one of the things I love about them) and it made for a really fascinating chat.
And one of these days, a long time from now, I kept telling myself, we will go on a real girls’ trip. Like a really long time from now, when we are all so excited to talk to each other that we will forget to look at our phones and we can all share a bottle of wine and we can talk about life and jobs and maybe kids and guys (and they will probably still roll their eyes because my guy will be their dad and they will still think that’s gross). And we will be more friends than we are mom-and-daughters. I know that this will happen because I’ve watched it happen with my mom. Family vacations turned into girls’ trips where we drink wine and stay up too late and talk about all the things. And she feels more like a friend… but it’s a little sweeter because she’s also my mom.
So until then, I’ll take the driving compliments (because they don’t come my way often— there’s usually too much cussing involved for me to be eligible for compliments), the awkward hand squeezes from the backseat and the surprise conversations about books. And I will continue to be really happy that they can get their own snacks.