Life with Kids: Lessons from the Open Road

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Open Road text

This summer we put the miles on Homer. Homer is, of course, the only thing a Lit Major can think to name the Honda Odyssey. (Coincidentally, the more contemporary associations with the name, “Homer” also work well, of course, when there are break-downs: “Doh! I think we just got a flat.” Or “Doh! Not another dent in a parking lot! ) And so with more than a month on the road, Homer the Honda earned his “epic” road trip merit badge this summer and so did we. Perhaps it takes a special kind of brain derangement to willfully spend that kind of time stuffed into a car traveling with a 4 year-old, a 2 year-old and an infant. Or perhaps, it is the mere act of having that many children who have not yet entered formal school that causes someone to lose that kind of brain cells.

Either way you learn a lot about yourself when strapped into tiny spaces with your family. You learn that your arms can stretch way further than you thought humanly possible to fetch a dropped French fry, crayon, juice box, matchbox car or stuffed animal. You learn your own personal threshold for the timeless question, “Are we there yet?” And you learn that you’d do just about anything to avoid stopping the car if any child has happened to fall asleep for some small stretch of miles.

But this summer, we also learned a more tender lesson, kindly taught to us by our 2 year old. To know our sweet Isaiah is to love him. When he smiles, there’s an explosion of dimples and a flash of mischief in his eyes that puts a deep-down grin in your heart. His hugs (or are they love tackles?) have literally knocked me over. He’s a rough-and-tumble boy who will pummel you with love and pin you with kisses. And there’s no doubt in my mind that God built this boy with a deep-down need for all things physical: from running and jumping to wrestling to hugs and holds and kisses. So when you take a boy like that and buckle him in a car-seat for an eight hour trip, what happens? Well, something that melted my heart every time.

Though our car was well-stocked with games, and crayons, DVD’s and snacks, each time we took to the road for more than about 30 minutes, Isaiah would call from the back, “Mommy?”

“Yes, Isaiah?”

“Mommy, I miss you.” The word, “miss” held for emphasis while the bottom lip rolled down and pouty eyes let you know this was a serious request.

“I miss you too, baby, but I’m right here. I haven’t gone anywhere.”

“Mommy, I miss you,” he would reiterate holding the words “miss” and “you” out for a few seconds longer than the first time and the pouty lip almost quivering now.

What I came to learn about that oft-repeated phrase during our summer of travel was that even a two-year old knows that nearness is not the same as closeness. Being near mama is not the same as being held by mama. Seat belts don’t exactly lend themselves to hug-tackles and games on the floor, for holding a child in your lap while reading a story, or walking hand in hand.

As Isaiah’s words have hung in my head and heart, I’ve thought about other relationships in our lives where nearness does not equal closeness. You know what I mean: the shared couch and television does not equal closeness with your spouse. The shared shuttles back-and-forth to practice and school do not necessarily equal closeness with your kids. The shared shopping excursions or tailgate parties don’t necessarily equal closeness with your friends or neighbors. And just because you make attending church or going to a bible study a priority, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are close to God.

Someone misses you. Material possessions can’t substitute for you. Entertainment may distract, but it’s no substitute for what you have to offer. Someone wants you: your heart, your embrace, your attention and interaction. Someone wants to be in real relationship with the unique soul that is you.

Can you hear it? That plaintive voice saying, “I miss you.” Where in your relationships is it time to put the brakes on, pull the car over, and get out?

Can you remember a time when closeness was more than nearness? When closeness was a depth of relationship that is not there now? Or maybe your closeness has always been a counterfeit. What can you do now to change it? Will you make the first move? It’s not too late to pull over. Someone needs you. The road can wait.


Have you missed me? Sorry for the little blog hiatus. Travel and life with littles got the best of me this summer, but hope you enjoyed this post. If you like what you’re reading and don’t already have me coming to your inbox, why not subscribe? And if you want to read more, check out some previous posts here or mosey on over to Amazon and check out my books. And yes, I do think moseying to Amazon is a legitimate way of surfing the wide wide world of web.

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