Instructions come with everything. If you want to wash your hair, the bottle advises you to lather, rinse, and repeat. If you call your friend, their voicemail will tell you to wait for the beep, then leave a message (Whew! Thanks for those tips people) There is a nice booklet in the seat in front of you showing you how to buckle your seatbelt on the plane.
But, there are many instructions we need that no one gives us. When we get married, perhaps someone could tell us we are all married to the same man (trust me, we are). And if your husband hears everything you tell him, puts the kids to bed without wrestling with them first, and doesn’t fall asleep in front of the tv every night after dinner, then good for you.
Going on a tour of a Broadway show comes with contracts to sign and a general idea of where we are going, but there are not a lot of instructions. Some things you must learn as you go.
On the bus, (named Bernice), there are unwritten rules. There is the rule of the 3 Ps: No perfume, no puking, and no pooping while on the bus. There is quiet time until 12 pm, so no noise til noon. If you need to go to the bathroom, (peeing is ok), and there are people sleeping on the floor, you must do the “bus crawl”,an elaborate gymnastic move where you must walk on the seat handles (see below).
You have your own seat, but not your own row unless you are smart enough to negotiate that in your contract. So, on long bus rides, you and your “bus buddy” must decide who is sleeping on the floor (sorry Sam).
But there are games and food stops in the middle of nowhere, and a few weeks ago we all watched Waiting For Guffman on our bus movie screens and laughed at the craziness of actors and this business. And the captain announces that they have very special guests on every plane ride we go on. The passengers get so excited that there are celebrities in their midst.
And, even though your schedule says you are taking a 2 day, 1200 mile bus from Syracuse, NY to Sioux Falls, SD, the producers can decide to make it “easier” on you by having you take a 5 hour, 5 am bus ride from Syracuse to the Cleveland airport; then take a flight to Chicago with a 2 hour layover, then a flight to Omaha with a stay overnight so that we can take an easy, 3 hour bus ride to South Dakota the next day.
And so, after 14 hours of travel today, I write from Omaha thinking of how I’d love some instructions on not how not to strangle my exhausted 11 year old who is currently mad at me that I did not pack goggles for the pool here in Nebraska. Because I should have thought of that in my packing for 8 million trips (half our luggage is still on Bernice, who will meet us in SD.)
Parenting does not come with rules or booklets. We must learn as we go. We learn that as kids get older, the challenge is more emotional than physical. We learn that even when we are not with them, we think we hear them anytime any kid, anywhere, yells mom. And we learn that most of the time, we have no idea what we are doing.
So, I will return to my room (I am currently hiding from Sam in the hotel lobby), and figure out a way to get this exhausted kid to bed. And I’ll gear up for another bus trip tomorrow. And it will be tiring and fun at the same time. Because even though the travels can be draining and bumpy and scary, we can usually look back and laugh at how crazy it all was. Because getting there is half the fun.