I did something I never thought I could do this summer: I drove 18 hours alone with my three kids on a marathon road trip.
Not straight ― that’s madness. Over three days, I drove 9 hours, 5.5 hours, and then 3.5 hours.
But still. Eighteen hours.
I feel like John Glenn.
Voyaging beyond an hour from home with my boys is NOT MY THING. The thought gives me insomnia. But I desperately wanted my children to see out-of-state people I love, especially their great-grandma. My husband started the trip with us, but needed to fly home to work. So I took the wheel alone and pressed on. I would never have done this before kids, but motherhood trumped fear.
Parenting does that. It can make us narcoleptic-tired, paper-thin stretched, and worried like we majored in it, but out of the hard parts comes this crazy new kind of strength.
From day one, we’re forced out of our comfort zone. At first, we can’t even believe someone would trust us with this little human being. Then it seems miraculous that in our sleep-deprived state, we’ve somehow kept our baby fed, rested and clean. We get our kids safely through the toddler years despite the things they insist on doing, like licking spilt chocolate milk off of McDonald’s floor. (True story. That was also the day my first grey hair came in.)
We become master researchers: illness, milestones, parenting tips, schools. Our strength becomes sub-human; when our children decide to koala-bear us for the entire length of the mall and then some, we carry them. When our 8-year-old begs to be thrown across the pool because, “Please mom, it’d be so fun!,” we find ourselving tossing a gleeful kid like we actually followed through with our morning workout.
We make hard decisions: “Should I step into this middle school drama or let them figure it out on their own?” or “How do I motivate my teenager to get better grades in high school?” In juggling work, family and household, we become bolder, we speak up. And somewhere in it all, we find our inner Mama Bear.
And she is empowering. She nudges us to do things like drive alone with kids into galaxies beyond…
…or 18 hours across America...whatever, same diff.
All I know is after the road trip, I feel like I can do more than I could before.
Not that I want to drive alone again. (I don’t. And I don’t recommend it to you either.) But I could do it if I had to.
Parenting persuades us to be braver today than we were yesterday.
And that feels good.