Dear Sito,

My in-laws live several hours away. We don’t have the means to fly there, but my wife likes going to her old home for the holidays. The kids always go crazy on the long car ride, no matter how many activities we come up with to try to keep them busy. I don’t like being in a stuffy car for hours on end.
I have put up with this for years for the sake of shalom bayit, but
I am at my wits’ end.
I don’t know what
to do. Any advice would help.

Car Sick

Dear Car Sick,

It is wonderful that you have been so accommodating to your wife’s desire to spend holidays with her family. Holidays are traditionally a time to enjoy the company of our family members, to show what the children have learned in school, and to share the milestones of our lives.  It must be difficult for your wife to be so far away from her parents all year, and I’m sure she appreciates your willingness to accompany her despite the difficulty of the long journey. Your commitment to shalom bayitis an example that we should all follow, a model of the kind of selflessness and consideration that is necessary for a successful marriage. There are so many ways in which to show our spouses how much they mean to us and how much their happiness matters. Agreeing to travel so that your wife can spend time with her family is but one way to let her know you care.

The question now becomes, what can be done to make this noble endeavor less trying for you and your family?

When I used to make a similar trip to visit my in-laws, we always timed the drive so that the children would fall asleep a few hours into it.  Their bedtime was 7pm, so we would leave the house at around 5 pm, and before you knew it, they had fallen asleep.  Some years we would stop at a hotel for the night to break up the drive, and other times my husband and I would take turns driving through the night, arriving at 1am and transferring the children from the car to their beds at Grandma’s house. In the morning, they were so excited to wake up to Grandma’s treats.  As the kids got older, we would make the drive part of the adventure, making several stops at points of interest along the way. One time we stopped at Lake George and took a boat ride, another time we hiked part of the Appalachian trail (the kids were so exhausted that even the big ones fell asleep for the rest of the trip!), and once we stopped at an amusement park. The driving was broken up and didn’t feel as tiresome as trying todrive straight through.

Alternatively, although you say that you don’t have the means to fly to your in-laws’ city, perhaps you can try starting a “holiday savings account” in which you save for the coming year’s trip.  Set aside a large container and throw all your change into it every day.  Depending on their ages, ask the children to contribute from odd jobs they can do for friends and family who live close by. You will be amazed at how much your spare change amounts to over the course of a year. And even if you don’t have enough for a flight, you can use your savings for the fun adventure you take if you have to drive.

Another alternative is to invite your in-laws to spend the holidays at your home, either every year or every other year. Of course, this will depend on their ability to travel, whether or not your wife has siblings who also need to travel, and the amount of space you have in your home.

The most important thing, though, is to preserve the shalom bayit. Remember that these trips are building special memories for your wife, her parents, and your children, and seeing your family thrive will bring you much happiness, as well.  An upbeat attitude, a sense of humor and some good CD’s will keep the ride as pleasant as possible.

All the best,