For those who have been spending some of these January holidays in a car travelling, you will no doubt be able to relate to this experience!
Are we there yet? I’ve said it. You’ve said it. We’ve all said it at some point in our eager childhood years. And you know that when you have already heard these tedious four words before you’ve even reached the Swan Hill Toyota sign, there will be one long, perilous journey ahead. And I’m not talking about the bitumen variety.
Trips as fleeting as Lake Boga can feel like some torturous, everlasting nightmare in a car full of unreasonable demands, deafening screaming, incessant arguing and sinister play. And as the anticipated school holidays kicked off this week (at the time of writing), many families are preparing for an extended holiday, a long-awaited weekend adventure or a simple day trip in the countryside.
As I prepare to embark on yet another lengthy car journey with young children these school holidays, I recall our previous winter school holiday adventure to the Jurassic Exhibition at Melbourne Museum. The pre-event sleep countdown; the hurried car packing; the calm conversation that quickly evolved into something of necessity: ‘are we there yet?’ as we reached the Lake Boga sign.
I couldn’t tell you how many times those ghastly words were impatiently fired at my ears; music blaring simultaneously to soften the blow. But by the time we reached Bendigo I was whining far worse than any one-eyed child. Every weary part of me wanted this agony and torment to be over. Now.
But before I knew it, it was over, and we were ‘there.’ The screaming ceased and we raced excitedly upstairs to check out our historic hotel room, which to our dismay, was quite ordinary. The kids opened every intriguing door in our new abode until there was nothing left to find, and then – because we were on a strict time budget of one night – they were seeking their next adventure within minutes. Can we go and see the dinosaurs now?
I fumbled with gear and keys and we shot off at the speed of lightening towards our next destination; hungry eyes on their prize.
We set off on our dinosaur quest, and as the excitement engulfed our Tyrannosaurus Rex lovers, they ploughed through the exhibition at record speed in search of the ‘next cool dinosaur.’ Before we knew it – just like 65 million years ago – our surreal dinosaur escapade was over. Done. Finished. Completo. Once we were into the souvenir shop amongst the emerging crowd, there was no turning back. No more T-Rex.
The common traveller’s phrase, ‘are we there yet?’ may be a juvenile statement aimed at the destruction of our parent’s sanity on long car trips, but do we ever really grow out of it?
We start schooling. Are we there yet?
We start University, get an apprenticeship or start a job. Are we there yet?
We wait to leave home. Are we there yet?
We want to turn 21. Are we there yet?
We want a promotion. Are we there yet?
We want to get married and have babies. Are we there yet?
We want our babies to grow up. Are we there yet?
We want to retire. Are we there yet?
Before we know it, we are ‘there’ (where ever that is), and it is not what we thought it was. Nor does it define who we are.
Just like the dinosaur exhibition, there is no option to turn around, go back or do the things we missed. We spend our lives asking ourselves, ‘are we there yet?’ while trying to get to our next destination – when in actual fact, we were ‘there’ all the time.
So, as I set out for another tedious five hour drive amongst a car full of riotous young explorers, I will cherish the ‘now.’ I plan to savour the desert scenery and the countless dreaded park stops on our journey – no matter how draining it is or how long it takes us – because one day I’II be yearning for a car load of screaming kids again (maybe!?).
While ‘there’ is purely a possibility, ‘now’ is like a guarantee. A warranty on life. And as I line up for another week of school holidays at home with three restless kids, I will take a deep breath and live by this quote. ‘When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing. Sometimes you just need to relax, breathe, let go and just live in the moment.’
But if you find me missing for a short time, I may be searching for an alternative moment to live in.