Waiting Week: On the Road Again

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The “are we there yet?” joke is so overdone in pop culture in our society, I had forgotten that it had to be based in reality—that it wasn’t the product of some Hollywood script writer or advertising executive.

On Thanksgiving, I wrote about the sort of dialog that flies around the minivan on a family road trip, but in the days since, I’ve kept returning to the idea of wanting to arrive now. My kids will often insist that they’d like to be at the destination—sometimes getting angry with me that I’m not magically and instantaneously transporting us to where we’re going.

Even in their more charitable moments, my kids don’t ask “Are we there yet?” in those exact words, but they come up with seemingly countless other ways to phrase the question.

“Is this it?” they’ll shout from behind me, wondering hopefully whether our continued 70 mph progress suddenly means we’ve arrived. Or they’ll sort of plead, “Can we be there now?” Or they’ll go for seemingly useful information: “When are we going to get there?” Encouraged, I’ll tell them a rough time, but that doesn’t actually work, either.

This last trip, I tried something new with my 4-year-old, who kept asking, “When will we be close?” I made sure she could see a clock, and then told her that when it said 10:30—one zero three zero—we would almost be home. She can recognize numbers, so I figured it would be a good, busy-work exercise for her.

After less than a minute of clock watching (it was 9 a.m., so I didn’t expect her to sit in silence the whole time, but I thought I’d get a little reprieve), she started a new line of questions: “What time was it again that you said?” “What time comes right before one-zero-three-zero?” “When will it be 10:30?” “When will it be—what did you say again?”

I feel like I ask the same questions: to myself, to my wife, to my parents, to God. I’m not sure what exactly the “there” is, but I know I haven’t made it yet. It’s no fun feeling stuck, waiting on what seems like someone else’s whim. When will I arrive at more peace, less worry, more money, less stress, more free time, more confidence, more whatever it is I don’t have as I travel at 70 mph through life?

The metaphor isn’t perfect, because I know I don’t have a fixed destination at which I’ll stretch my legs, crack my back, and say, “Yep—and I made good time, too.” And yet I still feel like asking, “Are we there yet?”

How about you?

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12 thoughts on “Waiting Week: On the Road Again

  1. susankier says:

    Having just graduated with my BA at 43, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to say I made good time. But I did arrive…is this it?

  2. franhunne4u says:

    You definitely need one of those old English taxis – with a windowpane in between the front seats and the backseats

  3. Mikelly says:

    It’s their way of constantly reminding you that one of the most important disciplines you can teach them is delayed gratification.

  4. Ruth says:

    I just spent a week ( okay let’s be honest…9 months) asking ” are we there yet?” And now, i’m looking down the road thinking…slow down…70mph is too fast! Yet, my brain is still stuck in “Are we there yet” mode to all the other things you mentioned.

  5. Carleen Butterfield says:

    OK! Once again your four year old is reminding me of my mother. Asking indirect questions to get her information–she knows the direct one will be annoying. This is a good skill to nurture. Perhaps a counselor, journalist or teacher is going to be a part of her journey. So about the journey. Last August I drove from So Cal to No Cal with nine year old twins in the car. No electronics–not even an iPad and we had left the activity bag in an office the night before and didn’t even have a crayon! So–we must on a daily basis make the journey itself part of the destination–of course you know that! I have NEVER driven that far without another adult in the car so that was a bit of a concern in itself. Inner strength was all that was available. And knowing–thanks to a nice man at the In N Out burger just past the Grapevine–where the very best potties are. So you have to be very resourceful! What do you have? Questions! Yeah–the questions. I had to ask questions FIRST. There was an Amber Alert on an early sign. So we got to discuss that and we put on our detective eyes and looked for the make, model and color of the car. Every time we saw the sign we were prompted again to keep looking. Perhaps we could be heroic–that appeals to a nine year old boy as much as finding the “really nice potties” appeals to a nine year old girl. Then there were lots of farms–what did we see on the farms and what did the equipment do and how does the food get from there (its journey) to our tables. What is a crop duster–why does Grandma prefer to buy organic if possible. How many heads of cattle do you think are there? This isn’t my idea, or even my mother’s. It theoretically came from an ancient Greek. But I think that is how we get our kids to be, if not smarter, at least alert to the outer regions of their worlds. However… are we there yet?

  6. Carleen Butterfield says:

    As parents–we don’t need to make good time–we need to make the time we have Good! If we can to that–harder than making good time–we ARE there.

  7. Jennifer says:

    My go- to answer (at least for the middle school kids on my bus to L.A) is 20 minutes. Because then at least I have 20 minutes of peace. My own children? Just pray they fall asleep.

  8. lydzayar says:

    Am working a job that I absolutely love for very little money and just got my first acting money. I have been asking if am there yet since I was wearing shoes to leave the house. I can’t wait for one zero three zero though.

  9. rachelmeeks says:

    This completely captures where I am right now. We’ve been trying to get approved for a mortgage. We’ve applied about what feels like a billion times. We find out tomorrow “if we’re there yet.” And every second I’m whining in my own head “AREEEE WEEEE THEREEE YET?!?!”

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