By Jessica Williams
The open highway: freedom, adventure, the unknown…hardly on the menu when you are a mother to three young children.
When I was growing up, we had a family Thanksgiving tradition of gathering at a family cabin in the desert outside of Palm Springs with my father’s family. There were 14 first cousins and we loved rock-hopping, exploring the stream, discovering rock-caves, stalking lizards…you know, desert oasis stuff. Cut to, living in urban Los Angeles with my husband and our three children; days are busy, the holiday is upon us and one of my cousins contacts me via Facebook to propose a family reunion.
It’s been over 25 years since we’ve been together as a big group at the cabin. All of the cousins are grown. There has been alcoholism, divorce and even death…and yet, true to the circle of life, there have also been new marriages, and most notably there are now ten young cousettes, three were born this year and had yet to be introduced. I wanted to heed my cousin’s call and make the effort, and yet…the to-do list, the house, the holidays, work; just hitting the basics with three young children is hard to handle sometimes. I resigned myself to missing the family affair. I hadn’t heard confirmation from my own sister and parents who live in LA with me and I assumed they weren’t going.
On Thursday, Thanksgiving night, my parents announced that they were driving East the next day for the remainder of the reunion. Then, my younger sister informed that she, too, was partaking, and bringing her young son. I am a social-girl by nature. I love a party. I love family. I love community. I love celebration. But, I was in no way prepared for a trip. My husband had work lined up for the rest of the weekend. I still had deadlines to meet myself, not to mention Fall Cleaning and inspiring my children during their Thanksgiving break. My heart stirred.
My children had no idea that there was a party in the works; of course I didn’t mention it; I’m no fool; why invite a litany of complaints and despondency from my children who, shocker, also love a party, socializing, family and celebration. My seven year-old had already lamented that we “never do anything,” compared to our next-door neighbors who had, of course, taken off gleefully in their caravan for a long weekend in Arizona with family. (Trust me, I am working on gratitude and “glass-half-full” with my daughter.)
So, after three kiddies and one husband were tucked in bed, I lay restless until morning finally broke. I feigned sleep for one extra moment before being inundated with the standard morning requests and thought about a saying my mother had taught me years ago, “love is action.” I thought about my cousin with his new baby who had made the initial contact, asking everyone to come together. I thought about the fact that his younger brother died of cancer recently and will never meet his niece. I hopped out of bed and started breakfast for the children.
I called my father, “Dad, I can’t stand missing the reunion. I’m going to drive down tomorrow, Saturday, for one night!” “That’s sweet, Jess, but everyone leaves tomorrow. They all fly home Saturday morning. Everyone is meeting at 11am TODAY for the big reunion.” It was 9:26am. “Kids,” I said, “Pack your bags!” My kids were stunned and thrilled. I entered the bedroom where my husband had the pillow over his head and announced, “Honey, I’m driving out to Palm Springs for the night. I know you can’t go, but I can’t miss this.” He said, “You need air in your tires.” I said, “Well, then you better go get me air, because we are out-of-here!” (Co-parenting-wimpy-female-disclaimer: after my car overheated in Santa Barbara on the drive home from my sister’s wedding and we had a newborn and a two and four year-old in the car, I declared that “cars were outside of my domain” for our division of labor!)
My husband hopped out of bed and took my car to the garage while I literally opened our pantry and threw dry goods in a shopping bag. I grabbed one change of clothes and a toothbrush. I double checked my 2 1/2 year-old’s backpack (yes, she had packed her own pajamas, sweatshirt and change of clothes,) and never even bothered to check my five and seven year-old’s bags! They grabbed a stack of books, pens and paper, my husband pulled in the driveway, and we jumped in the car. It was 10:16am.
I prayed to the Gods-of-Spontaneity: “I’m taking three young children on an overnight road trip by myself; please, just give me an open highway with no traffic.” We made it to Palm Springs in record time. By noon we were surrounded by over 20 relatives for lunch and play. There was a big “Grandma’s Enchiladas” dinner party that night and of course, we were welcome and jumped right in. There was even an extra hotel room for me as one of the families decided to leave that night instead of the morning and gave me their room.
My kids and I were in hog heaven; they had their own big bed, they got to stay up late and watch a movie in our room, and we made waves in the hotel’s jacuzzi. In the end, it was just what the doctor ordered. I actually needed to “get away” after all of my work of late, and I needed the extra time with my children; and the family reunion made memories where memories should be, tucked in the hearts of our children, adding up to a childhood.
Check out the DECEMBER TELECLASS for the Ultimate Parenting Course! Every month I host a FREE teleclass with one of our experts or an esteemed colleague. This month, I am featuring Catherine De Monte, MA, LMFT. Our topic is CO-PARENTING under one roof or two! Tuesday, December 13, 2011. 6pmPST/9pmEST. REGISTER HERE! Our November Teleclass filled to capacity in three days so seize the day if you want in on this call!
About Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams created L.O.V.E. Parenting with a series of techniques for effective communication, deepened connection and more joy in parenting and life. Jessica is also the creator of www.UltimateParentingCourse.com with the best of today’s progressive parenting experts together in one program. Jessica is a featured expert internationally on both Mothering.com’s Ask An Expert and the upcoming www.KidsInTheHouse.com. Jessica is a regular contributor to Mothering Magazine’s All Things Mothering, LA Parent Magazine, LA Mom Magazine & DailyBuzzMoms. She has been interviewed on television and radio and taught workshops at family wellness centers, schools and doctor’s offices. Her BirthKit has helped women have a transformational & empowering birth. Jessica maintains a private coaching practice in her native Los Angeles where she lives with her husband and their three children. “Truly amazing woman. I love her advice.”—Carrie-Anne Moss. “All you have shared has helped tremendously.”—Lisa Bonet. “I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach.” –Andrea Bendewald.