Traveling with kids

Sometimes traveling with kids can be a little bit…ok maybe a lot painful. Just look at those happy faces!

When my wife and I were planning our trip to Blacksburg, VA to attend a nearby photography session we forgot one important thing: Kids can be a pain. This timeless truth holds for any parent. However, when you happen to be a parent with Parkinson’s disease such as myself, it’s just even a tad more painful. I mean, it is more painful for me, but actually, it’s worse for my wife…more on that later, back to the trip. The first hint of trouble was when my 9 year old had the dreaded query of, “are we there yet” a mere 30 minutes into a 5 hr long drive from our home in Northern Virginia down to Blacksburg. That initial query would soon turn into more, similar queries with a growing impatience. The thing is, I don’t really like long drives either. They make me really stiff. With Parkinson’s, the more you move the better. And sitting in a car for hours at a time can be brutal. On top of that, stress makes Parkinson’s symptoms worse. If my Parky symptoms get bad enough, I can be rendered almost unable to drive. Sitting in a car on a long drive with bickering kids in the back is the stuff of nightmares.

All of us parents have been there before. My wife and I have done a decent amount of travelling with our kids. We enjoy seeing new places and have done plenty of driving. We have even flown to various places, including the west coast. We have even been overseas a time or two. But somehow, when planning the trips, we always seem to forget the really really painful parts. I guess we just block them out, until all we remember are the good times. Leaving us vulnerable to the next little “surprise”.

So travelling with kids can be uncomfortable. You can’t really predict how they’re going to behave but when you are travelling there is a 100% chance there will be some tense moments. I admit I’ve definitely wondered to myself why I thought this trip was a good idea. But you know what? It always ends up being totally worth it in the end. On this particular outing, my kids got to see where dad went to college as Virginia Tech (VT) is located in Blacksburg, where we were staying overnight. I graduated from VT in 2002 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and in 2003 with an MS in Mechanical Engineering. My class picture is still hanging in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Randolph Hall. It was pretty neat that my kids got to see a picture of my 22 year old self proudly hanging there. My kids were fascinated by how huge the school is, and asked a lot of questions, indicating a healthy early interest in college. We went hiking at Pandapas pond, which is an area I frequented during my time as a student. We went shooting at the shooting range off of 460 West, again a place I used to go when I was a student at VT. My 12 year old even shot my 12 Gauge shotgun. A relatively rare privilege for a boy growing up in the crowded suburbs of Northern VA.

The moment my Parky symptoms proved to make life somewhat more difficult for me, but more so for my wife came when we returned to the hotel after the hike. For some reason, my 9 year old just decided to be a total pain and would not stop tormenting everyone in various ways. Things were getting tense between my 9 year old and 11 year old. A non-Parky father would have been available to help manage the situation before it boiled over. But not me. My Parkinson’s symptoms render me next to helpless as my last dose of medication of the day wears off in the evening hours. Also, I experience “early rising” as many Parky’s do so by the evening hours after a long day, I’m often ready to drop. Finally, the scenario unfolding before me was stressful, which meant that even further magnified my already worsening symptoms. So unfortunately, my poor wife was left to handle the kids on her own, as is often the case in these situations Meanwhile, I fell asleep to the sound of the kids yelling and my wife struggling to reason with them.

The following day my wife attended the the photography session while the kids and I got to some more exploring and actually got a chance to do some more shooting at a different range near the Sweet Water Resort where the photography session was held. After the photo session we had a pleasant ride home, stopping for pizza near Charlottesville, VA on the way. All in all another great family trip that we’ll remember for years to come.

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