The four of us, plus another family of four who are close friends (read: chosen family) traveled together to Williamsburg, VA. We screamed on the roller coasters at Busch Gardens and watched candle making and muskets being fired in Colonial Williamsburg, all while sneezing our heads off as allergies attacked us all.
The biggest complaint we had during the entire trip was a little rain, but even that just ran the crowds off and we enjoyed shorter lines at the amusement park. We were actually hoping for another quick shower that day to keep the lines short.
Yesterday we packed up our hotel rooms, loaded the cars, and headed home. We stopped for gas, so that mean we had gotten separated from our friends. Traffic wasn't too bad, and we were traveling up I-95 northbound about an hour and a half from home when I suddenly felt the vibration in our SUV change. Traffic was moving at about 60-70 mph, and yet I could not accelerate. It was like my car had dropped itself into neutral, all while traveling at full speed in the center of the interstate. We didn't completely lose power, because every light on our dashboard lit up like fireworks. Thankfully the brakes still worked, so I was able to coast/brake off to the side of the road and our of the lanes of traffic. The speed we were traveling was actually a blessing, because had we been in bumper to bumper traffic we probably would have just stopped in the center lane of the highway.
We get to the side of the road, call USAA roadside service, and find out that a tow will be there... in 90 minutes.
Yes, it was stressful.
Yes, I was exhausted after a long week.
Yes, I needed a stiff drink when we finally made it home.
However, in the midst all of that, we were overwhelmed by one emotion in particular. It wasn't anger, or even annoyance.
It was gratitude.
1. It was early in the day. We had all afternoon and evening to deal with the situation at hand. Things would have felt very different in the dark, especially with two kids that really want to go to bed.
2. It was sunny. This entire situation would have been horrible in the rain.
3. Where we happened to break down and get to the side of the road was just off the shoulder of a truck rest stop. During that ninety minute wait we had both restrooms and vending machines a short walk away. Those of you who know what it's like to travel with kids know that is huge.
4. We were just a few miles from a CarMax, which is where we bought the vehicle from and had their extended warranty plan. Even though it turns out that the best way to have it looked at quickly is to have it towed today to a dealer nearby because their shop is available, I feel I can simply and easily manage all of this from my home in another state because the woman from CarMax is looped into it all and is helping with paperwork.
5. At only an hour and a half from home, my mother-in-law was able to drive to Virginia and come rescue us. She, by the way, now qualifies for sainthood. If this was going to happen, it happened where it did. Two years ago, in the same SUV, the four of us took a three-week-long road trip that took us halfway across the nation and back, all without a single mechanical issue. We weren't stuck in the middle of a field in Iowa. Virginia was manageable.
By focusing on gratitude, it made a really crummy situation a lot more pleasant. Well, pleasant may not be the right word, but no one, even the kids, were reduced to tears. All we could do was roll with it, and everyone's attitude made that much easier. The kids had snacks, electronics, and sudoku books to pass the time, I had the Kindle app on my phone, and we all laughed about the exciting adventure. It was later than we would have liked but we still made it home, and it is all going to be okay. I'm even grateful that walking to school is our norm, so this morning was easy.
I was reminded that we need to let our attitude shape how we handle stressful situations. Our kids are watching and taking their cues from us. The day will come when my boys will be adults with kids of their own, and something like this will happen. Cars break down. This stressful day was an opportunity as a parent, and all I can hope is that they will remember that things will be okay. There might even be a rest stop close by.
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