One parent. One five-year-old. Ten hours in the car to bring home six calves. What could go wrong?
I packed snacks. Lots of snacks. Breakfast, lunch, and elements of dinner. I asked Emerson several times if he really wanted to spend five hours in his car seat on the way to pick up the calves, only to spend another five on the way home. "Ten hours, Emerson. Ten hours. It's a really long time."
But he was persistent over the course of three days. He may not have fully understood what "road trip" meant, but he really wanted to give it a try. And I'm so glad he did because we both had a great time.
We started the journey with breakfast bars, coffee for me, and much to Wendy's horror a plastic bottle of milk for Emerson. "You're gonna give him that whole thing to drink out of while the car is moving?" she asked. "That's my plan," I told her, "he'll be fine." There was a long pause. He was strapped in his car seat, two breakfast bars in his hand, bottle of milk ready-to-go in his cup holder. We're road-tripping, my expression implored, give him a chance. "
So off we went, my big boy with his big-boy breakfast. We'd made it a couple of miles down the road when I stopped at an intersection. "Mommy..." he said, "I spilled my milk." Dammit.
"A lot?" I asked him.
"No, just a little, on my shirt. It spilled out when you stopped." I could hear the disappointment in his voice.
"Okay, no worries," I responded. "It'll dry." Road trip rules, baby.
Our journey continued, some along the highway, much on secondary "D roads" flanked by fields filled with corn or dotted with cattle. We traveled through lots of villages where the speed limit dropped to 30 kph (18 mph). We sang songs and chatted. We shared sandwiches Wendy had prepared, ate chips, and Emerson ate pouches of pudding I had purchased thinking they contained chocolate milk.
We arrived at the farm around 12:30 and Monsieur Magret had the calves all ready to go so it was (fairly) easy to load them into the trailer. After we finished completing the paperwork, he gave me a bottle of local sparkling wine from the Burgundy region. His thoughtfulness really struck me and makes me want to do something similar if anyone ever buys a cow from us.
The car was quite crowded on the way home, not because of the six additional passengers in the trailer, but because of the 50 flies who decided to hitch a ride when I left the windows down at the farm. I tried to get them out before we left but they just laughed at me. Emerson and I were literally trying to remove flies from the car the whole way home and I'm not sure we ever truly succeeded.
"MOMMY! IT'S TOO WINDY!" he would yell when I'd suddenly put the window down.
"I KNOW!" I assured him. "JUST KNOW WHEN THAT HAPPENS IT'S BECAUSE I'M TRYING TO GET A FLY OUT AND IT'LL STOP SOON."
I let him have control of his own window so he could work on the problem too. He liked that. In fact, he seemed to enjoy the whole trip. The closest he ever came to complaining is when he told me he wished we were home so he could lie down instead of sitting. That was around 5pm. I kind of felt the same way.
He certainly made me proud, and I told him so.
"What did you think would happen?" he asked.
"Well, I thought it would go one of two ways," I responded. "One is that you'd be bored and whine a lot and the trip would end up being really unpleasant for both of us. The other is that you'd behave like you did and it would be really nice."
"Oh," he answered, apparently satisfied. This road trip was a good reminder to give my kids a chance to rise to the occasion. Sure, they might make life miserable for themselves and us for a little while if they aren't ready for it. But they may also excel, make themselves proud, and gain confidence that'll benefit them for years to come.
Our kids don't remember most of our national parks road trip, but I hope Emerson is old enough to remember this one. I know I will.