Holiday & Travel Planning

Try and Enjoy the Ride

It’s risky to leave routine behind, says this mother of three, but the journey is its own reward. A long drive lets her listen, learn, and reconnect with her children with attention deficit.

Every summer my kids and I take a road trip to visit family in my hometown and neighboring states. This 1,422 mile, journey is one that most parents, especially those of ADHD kids, would dread. Driving twenty-four hours with any child, let alone two with ADHD and a two-year-old, does sound a little extreme. However, I look forward to it because it’s the one time of year I have all of my children contained in one place for a prolonged period.

The children seem more attentive to what I have to say, focused on my lessons and stories when they are contained within the confines of the car. As distracted and hyperactive as my children can be in the “outside world,” they are hyper-focused on the act of a “journey.” It’s almost as if they are prisoner to hear my stories and experiences, things they’re unable to sit still long enough to hear when we’re home. I feel like this is sacred time in which I can have their full attention, and in some ways they have a lot more of mine. It was the first time I’d heard my tween talk of her concerns for school next year and how friendships seem to be evolving and changing. My teenager actually conversed in complete sentences, sharing his thoughts on the science behind various landmasses we passed.

Of course, such an epic road trip with three children isn’t a walk in the park filled with roses and sunshine. There were difficult miles (or entire states). My super-social tween got a little chattier than my brooding, moody teen could tolerate. The two-year-old protested the confines of her car seat, screaming at a volume too high for her sensitive brother’s ears. There were also the miles of “Are we there yet?” and “I’m so bored.”

In my seven years of doing this journey, I’ve learned a few things that help make these moments less frequent and therefore our trips more fun. What have I found that makes a huge difference? I allow my kids to choose one special “big activity” on the way up and on the way home. They usually don’t pre-plan this activity, but rather choose it from something they see along the highway that piques their interest.

This year we stopped in Kentucky to pan for precious gems and fossils. Other things we’ve done are visiting Civil War battlegrounds, taking a tour of a baseball bat factory, and hiking through a cavern. What I’ve found is that this helps shorten the trip in their minds. It takes one big long journey and breaks it into smaller pieces. More importantly, though, it allows them to feel as if they have control during our trip.

I know I’m lucky in that my kids love to travel and may actually be better behaved during travel times. My travels with my special needs children have forced me to slow down, work on my patience, and, most important, remain flexible. Sometimes it feels sort of risky to leave the comforts of routine, since my kids thrive on it. However, I think it’s so important to take those risks and enjoy the ride that they present. I’ve learned more about myself and more about my children on these annual trips than I would have had we stayed home.