The Best Breakdown Ever

This summer, my husband and I got really brave. We decided to go on a two-day, twenty-hour road trip with our kids (ages 8, 6, and 3,) so that we could visit our families on the east coast and spend four weeks at the beach.

Gearing up for this trip, I spent a lot of time worrying stressing preparing. We made packing lists that were *pages* long, with electronic devices of all kinds, snacks, drinks, toys, and everything else I could possibly think of for the car ride. In addition to car ride essentials, I also packed tons of other items for the stay itself, even a giant printer as this is a working vacation for me. I mentally got myself as ready as I could for my kids driving me crazy while trapped in a car with them for twenty hours.

Since we were going to be gone for a whole month, with three drivers in our family, we decided to take two cars on the trip. We got them both checked out by our mechanic, because really, aside from an accident, a breakdown on a twenty-hour drive with three kids is the thing that seemed the most dread-inducing on a trip like this.

I was feeling pretty good about our level of preparedness.

Then, halfway through our first day on the road, while going 70 miles an hour on the highway, this happened:

Best Breakdown 1

This was the thing that I was most dreading–broken down on the highway on a weekend, when few places are open to fix a problem.

And you know what? If one can describe a car breakdown as pleasant, this was it. I’ve never had one better. To riff off of a favorite Richard Scarry title, “The Best Mistake Ever,” this was “The Best Breakdown Ever.”

While the kids were starting to get a little panicky, asking if we were going to be stuck on the side of the road forever, I called AAA.

“Are you in a safe place?” the AAA dispatcher asked.
“Well, I’m on the side of a highway with three kids. I’ve been in better situations.”
“Do you need to call 911?”
“No, we’re definitely not in need of 911, but I’d really like it if you could send someone quickly.”

And, like magic, they did. We had a tow truck out in less than thirty minutes. I don’t know how it was the last time you called a tow, but I’ve never had one arrive that quickly. They were there so quickly that we had just finished swapping luggage, car seats, and kids between cars.


That brings me to another point in the awesomeness of this breakdown – there was a second car to put all the people in! No need to call a cab to haul six people to the repair shop.

The next piece of magic in this equation was the repair shop. I called ahead to the place that AAA said we’d be towed to and asked if they had our tire. They had sold seven of it the day before and only had one left in their inventory. They promised to hold it for me. Since they were expecting us, by the time the tow truck unloaded our van, they were already pulling out their equipment to work on it. My kids got to relax in the other car watching movies. They were also able to go inside to use the bathroom, or have fun touching and exploring the tire displays. All in all, it was pretty chill.

From start to finish, this entire “crisis” took only about 90 minutes. Who has a 90 minute breakdown?!

But the things that make this “The Best Breakdown Ever” are the lessons we learned from this little adventure. First, maybe I worry too much. Sometimes, I (maybe you, too?) spend a lot of energy dreading and preparing for the worst that can happen. And then it does happen, and it’s really no big deal. So, maybe I (we) should spend a little less time worrying, and a little more time enjoying the ride. Second, I’ve got three little people watching me, and, unfortunately, worrying like me. And in a crew like that, a positive attitude makes a big difference. When I focused on all the things that were going right, my kids went from panicky to talking about how lucky we were.

I hope that this experience helps them build up that “resilience” that we hear so much about these days. Maybe a positive attitude will help us all worry less and enjoy the ride more.

Got a story about when your positive attitude was a game changer in a family misadventure? Tell us about it in the comments!


Laura is a mom of three who works full-time from home as a Development Director for a children’s charity. Laura grew up in Maryland, spent her 20s living in Southern California and South Carolina, and has spent her 30s and now 40s in Iowa, moving to Iowa City in 2010. Laura loves dancing, reading, baking, and music. She and her husband Ryan started dating in college (gasp – over 20 years ago!) and they have been sharing life’s adventures ever since. Their biggest adventure is, of course, parenthood. With three kids, the action is non-stop - which is just the way Laura likes it.


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