“Take a deep breath in for four counts, hold it for seven, and exhale for eight.” I tried to find my zen in yoga class while also doing the fastest seven-count ever. I admit that I’m pretty bad at relaxing. The entire time I’m supposed to shake off the day, I’m typically running through the events of tomorrow. Still, mentally managing all the curricular and extra-curricular activities of my four kids and busy husband does give this control-freak an odd sense of calm.
When our instructor suggests that the class find its happy place, many picture the beach. Toes digging into the sand, the sound of waves gently and consistently ebbing, and the sun like a blanket on the skin — I can see why this scene would be a typical go-to “happy place.” When I think of my happy place, though, I picture myself in my mini-van. Yep, full-on, cliche Mom Mode. Here’s where I feel the most zen.
There’s something about that space where all four are confined and buckled! In my van, my husband and I are not only literally in the driver’s seat, controlling the vehicle itself, but there’s a sense of control and calm that we have here that is unlike anywhere else. Here, we can steer the vehicle, climate, volume, entertainment, and — most importantly — conversation.
When we vacation, we genuinely don’t mind a long drive. We’ve loaded up our kids and taken them across several states with ease. Between their games and music, the kids can entertain themselves in the van in ways they wouldn’t at home. They love a good podcast. We listen to “Wow in the World,” “Highlights Hangout,” and some pre-approved “This American Life” and “Radiolab” episodes. A favorite was the history of football. We love our Pandora stations where everyone can sing along to “Moana” or “They Might Be Giants.” But not every moment has to be focused entertainment.
On these long trips, we have some of the best talks that may have never happened or may have even been uncomfortable in any other environment. We’ve discussed the many factors leading to the sinking of the Titanic, presidents and their leadership strategies, fart jokes, drug addiction, consent, our favorite foods, religious viewpoints, made-up ice cream flavors, and parts of speech. They often initiate these with a broad “Can we talk about something?”
And books! By this point, the kids know that if they’re ever “loading up,” they need to grab their books. There’s never a time that we’re in the van when books aren’t also.
We can eat, sleep, talk, listen, read, play, and see different geographies all in the van. If it weren’t for pit stops, we could drive endlessly, enjoying our time together. Also, in a perfect world, everything would have a drive-thru!
Here, unlike our busy weeknights, everyone is together in one place. Unlike anywhere else, we all collectively share in whatever we’re doing. Our van isn’t just how we get from point A to point B: it’s where we do what we’re doing along the way.
So when everyone else is probably envisioning a beach or forest scene when directed to their “happy place,” I’ll be thinking about our last road trip to Florida with a van full of kids.