Monday, June 10, 2013

Thoughts on a Road Trip

We went on a road trip Sunday.  Didn't have much money in our pockets, but we had a full tank of gas and an itch to be on the road.  Our destination was somewhere up north, as far as we could get before we’d turn around and return the same day.

It's 17.2 miles from our house to the Golden Gate Bridge, and then it's all freeways. The Golden Gate has always represented a portal to freedom to me. Once I get there, I know I’m going somewhere special, somewhere outside our usual stomping grounds. It was encased in fog, but there were plenty of walkers getting blown about like leaves.

On the freeway, there was a moment when we wished for a laser gun to use on the person in the red Ferrari ahead of us. He was in desperate need of absolute disintegration, talking on his cell phone, oblivious to the travelers around him, and driving a good 15 miles slower than the rest of traffic. Once Leslie's coffee kicked in, she started navigating traffic like the professional she was and still is. We left him in our smoke to pick up coastal Highway One at Mill Valley. 

Before too long, we noticed there were many buses, tour buses. Then, it occurred to us we were close to the Muir Woods.  By the time we drove the twisty-turny hairpin turns that took us up the mountain to the Muir Woods Overlook, Elizabeth was horribly and unexpectedly car sick. How could we forget about her car sickness? She moved to the front seat, but it didn’t help. 

The poor baby was green around the gills, so we hung out at the Overlook deciding what to do.

I hiked around for a bit and took a few pictures.  It was windy, much like the Golden Gate Bridge. Mist hung on everything.  People still stopped to take in the vistas, though, even those wearing a towel wrapped around a bathing suit.  It was very chilly.

Given that the next cross over to Highway 101 was a good 100 miles of north bound twisting and turning, we decided to head backward toward home and call it a day. Elizabeth was sick enough.  The drive back down the hill was slow and careful. The stress of high school is gone right now, so she let Leslie mother her through the car sickness, rubbing her back, and offering bi-carb so she’d feel better. I sat in the back seat listening to Leslie and Elizabeth converse, struck by the subtle differences in our parenting styles and how we communicate with her, but always in awe of Leslie’s tenderness and caring. I got a clear and increasingly rare glimpse of how much our daughter relies on and shares with us as she balances the tightrope that runs between childhood and adulthood.

Once we got past the Bridge and into the City, Elizabeth was herself again, talking and laughing. We discussed topics revolving around school, social interaction, and her friends. She’s not afraid of things like teen suicide, which she runs up against at least once a year, or discussing the kids we know who’ve tried to kill themselves. She has a logical way of rationalizing and understanding it without passing judgment. She is more reserved, for example, if she needs to tell us she got a C on a test, but if it’s about her feelings getting hurt or some sort of problem at school, with a little prodding, she’s up front with it. Leslie knows when something is amiss, for example, and will gently ask repeatedly if everything is okay until finally Elizabeth tells her what’s going on. We are very fortunate that Elizabeth is as well-adjusted as she is, and that’s she’s not afraid to talk to us.  And we’re also fortunate she can navigate her way through high school without getting lost. 

We also talked about silly topics like the boy group, One Direction, and Elizabeth’s frustration when we can’t identify which one is singing. My short fall, I’m sorry to say, as Leslie seems to nail it every time. When I look at Elizabeth with that blue hair, I still can’t believe she came out of my belly. We know some parents would have a problem with a head full of Manic Panic Blue, even if it is a perfectly harmless way for a teenager to express herself. We feel quite strongly, however, that there will be no piercings or tattoos, thank you very much. We figured out long ago that a parent must carefully pick where to put a foot down.  A heavy hand or judgmental tone can easily alienate a growing teen.  And then what do you have?

We had a wonderful family day in spite of the unexpected problems.  After all, that was the point right from the start.
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