I just finished up 10 days of driving and living within the confines of my minivan with my 4 boys + husband. Big, scruffy, hungry boys. Boys who I’m sure are messier and dirtier and stinkier than I raised them to be. What ever happened? Clothes and underwear and toothpaste and headphones and books and games and hats and wrappers and cups and Kleenexes everywhere. Everywhere. Our van smells like Subway meets Chipotle + 8 stinky feet. We shared the seats in the van for 50 hours, shared one hotel room for too many days, shared the ransacked food in the cooler jammed between the back seats.
But worst of all, we shared the same toilet. If ever I was to wonder where my parenting went bad, I need only to look at the shared toilet. Were they raised in a barn? Hit the water, not the seat my boys! In fact, just because you CAN stand up to pee doesn't mean you SHOULD. Have a seat. On the throne. It's better for all of us.
And best of all, we shared the same moments. These moments created memories that span the miles of 7 states and 1 province, and back again. These moments created a lot of laughter, a little frustration, and sporadic times of quiet. As I write this we are making our way across Michigan, heading home, and my boys are discussing the pros and cons of various movies present and past, and of course, talking about all the restaurants we DIDN’T eat at (cue second mortgage here).
I learned some things about my boys...
One of them actually does NOT like his name. (What???? Bite tongue and swallow hard and...apologize? Nope. Smile knowing deep down that it really isn't that bad).
One of them would eat at Pizza Ranch every day if he could, although on any other given day he doesn't like cheese. (Pizza Ranch, we learned, is a pizza buffet. Great for most teenaged boys. Tuck that piece of advice away).
One of them stills loves to play Pokemon on his DS. (Hours of silent entertainment in the back).
One of them said out of the blue, "I think it would have been awkward to have 3 boys and 1 girl", sparking a quick reply of another: "I think she would have been a “homie”. She would have been just like us." ("Awkward"?? That's an interesting word choice...")
But there is something about family, something about being together even after being apart. There is something about growing up together that binds us together, that anchors us, that secures us and protects us. It provides room for the tension of love and laughter alongside frustration and disappointment. It creates space for honesty and compassion. It allows for uniqueness and creativity, for truth and character, for freedom and grace. Most of all, it paves the way so there is always a way back.
And that something is actually someone: Jesus. Keep Jesus in your family.
Even when it's a hard conversation - have it.
Even if it's an awkward conversation - have it.
Family is worth it. Your family is worth it. Your boys are worth it.
Our 10 day road trip was probably the last of it's kind for our family. Which is why we did it. Because we love our boys and value our time together and know that the sacrifices of time and energy (and money...) are worth it even if the toilet is disgusting and I can't possibly eat one more slice of pizza.
All in all, we did alright.
Especially for being a family that hasn't even been in the same country let alone the same minivan for most of the past year. This is how I know God is real. Lord have mercy, we all survived.
But we not only survived. I believe we all came out a little stronger.