Before I became a real mom, I envisioned my future mom-self packing up the car with camera, baby, pen and pad and hitting the road to explore. I imagined how I would stop to take pictures and plop my sweet babe down on a quilt in vibrant green and yellow fields against a backdrop of brilliant blue sky. And I would write.
When motherhood did become a reality for me, you might say I was a bit… surprised. Once I had my own babies, I cringed when someone mentioned loading up the kids for a road trip to visit them just a few hoouuuurrrrs away.
When we did travel so the relatives could see the kids before they grew up, I would pack bags of activities and snacks to keep a baby (whose view faced the back of the back seat) and toddler occupied. When my stash ran out, we would stop at a convenience store for cups of ice to keep the toddler’s hands and mouth busy while the baby took a nap.
In fact, most of the time I found myself putting the kids in the car to calm them down and try to get them to sleep in their car seats as we cruised the neighborhood streets at a crawl–something that before I had kids, the environmentalist in me had sworn I would never do. Ever. Each time I turned the key in the ignition, I felt my ideals slowly giving way to reality.
But a couple of summers ago, I was caught by surprise when I turned around to find myself living out this long-forgotten but apparently not abandoned ideal.
My babies, then five years old and going on eight, sat in the back seat of the car in booster seats that now faced the front. The headrest was off the passenger seat so my youngest wouldn’t get car sick as he took in the sights, while my oldest viewed the car as a sort of “reading capsule” until we got to where we were going.
My backpack, with camera, notebooks, pens and lists of things to do, sat beside me on the front seat, along with snack bags, lunch boxes and water bottles strewn everywhere. On a day trip to the hill country, we rolled with the dips and hills on Park Road 4, the closest thing to a roller coaster in these parts. My kiddos screamed and giggled with delight as our stomachs dropped and rose. Around the next curve, I pointed out Longhorn Caverns State Park, the castle, and the long windy road that descends to the valley where round hay bales lay evenly spaced in the fields. My son was taking it all in and my daughter had actually looked up from her book. We were together for the summer, off from school, out to explore and while away the long days.
And that’s when it hit me. I hadn’t been that off about motherhood.
Annette Lucksinger lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, two kids, puppy (the latest shocker to her ideals) and a fish. She is the author of Exploring Austin with Kids, a guidebook to Austin’s best family activities and events. She is proud to say that all entries have been kid-approved and explored by one or both of her young adventurers.