One of the worst things about having an oversized family wrought with health issues is that it’s virtually impossible to leave home as a group for an extended period of time. But this week, with our first real trip as a group of six on the horizon, that immobility feels more like a positive.
See, we – as in me and my wife plus our 9-year-old daughter, our 2-year-old daughter and our 6-month-old twins, one tubby boy and one petite girl – are prepping for a short visit to my hometown of Jamestown, N.D. At the time of the last trip there, “we” consisted of two adults and one child. The four-person version of our crew has made only one drive of any distance – to Minneapolis last summer – and the twins have never left Sioux Falls city limits.
No, we’re not stagnants – if I can coin that term – or against exploration. The sanitized explanation for the lack of movement: One set of twins was born prematurely in 2010 – the survivor has lingering medical needs – followed by another pair in 2012. Factor in the pregnancy time between and another recent health scare and … voila: Stuck at home (aside from my fairly extensive work trips).
It hasn’t been ideal to miss so many family gatherings, to be unable to even consider taking a genuine vacation, something we did several times when our oldest was our only.
But, as an undiagnosed OCD sufferer with anti-social tendencies, being as agile as a fence post also has been something of a relief. Packing up more than one kid for a 5-hour drive and overnight stay is overwhelming – at least the way we do it. It’s the kind of process that leaves you feeling tired before ever getting into the car.
In this case, the car is a maroon minivan. But don’t worry – no wood paneling so it’s the cool kind of minivan. I mean, my wife once blew out the speakers by playing music too loud. Street. Cred.
Frankly, I have no idea how (or why) families of this size traveled before minivans equipped with DVD players. We’re barely going to fit into the vehicle to accompany the double stroller, diapers, bottles, snacks, toys, clothes and medical equipment.
Eating while away, both in transit and at the point of destination, figures to be another headache. The oldest is picky, the 2-year-old requires a G-tube and a frequent puker and the twins do the formula and baby food thing. My wife insists on driving because she’s quick to get car sick, meaning I may spend the full five hours in a modified crouching position, zipping around the back of the van in an attempt to feed and/or clean up after the four kids.
Arrival is likely to have its own set of questions: Will the babies be willing to sleep in an unfamiliar place? Will the 2-year-old be afraid of or torture my parents’ cat? Will I be able to find a cup of coffee that’s good enough to satisfy my snobbery?
That’s in addition to the usual (and largely unfounded) issues that go with any visit to your childhood home – the tendency to be less responsible, the urge to seek out old friends, the itch to be petty and/or rebellious. (Come to think of it, this entire post is tinged with immaturity.)
Meanwhile, just staying home is so … easy. Your own bed, brand of coffee and (if necessary) hiding places. Convenience isn’t the only reason we haven’t ventured out more, but it’s a part of the equation.
That’s the bottom line: This is going to be work, one way or another. I have the choice laugh at the absurdity or mutter about it. Odds are high that I’ll do both.