Daily Near-Death Experience

Car trouble.

Do you manage long road trips with your family?

My kids resent being immobilized in a five-point harness for hours on end and I sympathize; I don’t think small bodies are meant to endure long travel.  Everyone I know however, travels by car with little complaint or incident and I mean far, like seven-hours-there-and-back-on-Easter-weekend far.  I know people who have taken a 13-hour road trip without screens and everyone reached their destination alive.  My friend, her husband and two young children are on the road from Wisconsin to Florida as I write — that’s 20 hours direct – and not for the first time.

Everyone has it figured out except me.  I don’t like that.

We tried it, sure.  There was that one time we attempted seven hours by starting at 5pm, hoping to spend the last four hours asleep.  One child did that.  The other child refused and screamed “MOMMA” and cried so hard that she vomitted several times.  As a bonus, her screaming kept waking the other child.  Miserable does not begin to describe the experience.  Hearing your nearly two-year old scream for you over and over while you can do nothing is sickening; traumatic even, for all parties.  Long car rides were removed from our To Do List which is a shame when you’re also terrified to fly.

We’ll go when we’re ready and my kids are not ready and that is okay.  Later is okay.

But we still have to drive around town and that too has its issues:

“Over the course of an average 16-minute trip, parents that had kids present spent three minutes and 22 seconds with their eyes not on the road.” – Kids in Cars 12 Times More Distracting for Drivers than Talking on Cell Phones

We take a lot of 16-minute trips.  (Honestly, how do you do it for hours upon hours?)

Those trips begin and end with getting Farrah in and out of her car seat, which I do no less than seven times a day, so no less than seven times a day do I say “PUT THE TOY/SNACK/WATER DOWN.  BUCKLE FIRST.”  “HURRYHURRYHURRY!  I AM ABOUT TO BE RUN OVER.”  “GET SERIOUS FARRAH.  A CAR IS GOING TO HIT ME.”  I say these things because they are true.  Farrah’s seat is on the driver’s side, the side that opens to traffic. City traffic. Montreal traffic.  Seven times a day I am in a state of terror and anger.


That is a shitty way to be seven times a day looking into this face.  That’s not who I want to be and she doesn’t deserve it just for being the fidgety, distracted, curious, 100% normal three-year-old that she is.

I stopped trying to change her and changed the seats instead.

IMG_8711 IMG_8718

Now Arlo has a little less leg room and he can no long fling open his door, but he’s not complaining because he gets to crawl through the car to his seat, much like a military maneuver, and much to his pleasure.

So that’s one car problem solved.  Seems simple now, like I should have done it at the beginning of winter, but no matter.  It’s done and our days are seven times’ improved.  It feels awesome and I think my kids would agree.

Please share your tips for long car rides in the Comments below.  I know we’ll get there one day.  Lead the way!


6 thoughts on “Daily Near-Death Experience

  1. Yes, please give me car tips. My 6 month old is good in the car for about 20-30 minutes, tops. Beyond that she gets unhappy and so do I. Nobody else seems to get why I twitch at the thought of a car trip. “She’ll just go to sleep, right?” I wish.
    And don’t you love when a small change makes such a big difference in the day? Yay for that!


  2. I will not lie. I’ve got two years on you. Huge, HUGE difference. Our first 20+ hour trip involved little boxed surprises that got doled out at strategic (just-before-meltdown) moments. Audio books including chapter ones, and short ones that chime—because even a 3-year-old likes to be in charge of turning pages. I cleared out the snack aisle before we left and handed back things with total disregard to their or the van interiors. I squeezed in between them for some desperate (and uncomfortable) miles. I swore we were never doing it again. When she was two, I gave her a clear lip balm which she carefully applied to every inch of exposed skin for 40 minutes. A baby wipe in each hand to remove her from the car and wipe her down. This inside of a lipstick case with a little mirror—pure gold. Also, a box of bandaids—she carefully unwrapped each one and applied it to her legs=a full hour of bliss. I read books out loud. I sang. We made a stack of cards with stick figures doing different exercises (jumping seven times, running in three circles, jumping jacks, spinning, pretending to chase a squirrel….) and I would pull them out at rest stops and let them pull a card (or ten) for all of us to do. Now, the seven-year-old is an absolute champ. He’s always been an ace traveler. Reads, writes lists, draws….and the five-year-old has headphones and a tablet (okay, fine, two) and free access as long as we’re moving. I hope next year she’ll be able to read….That first trip was undertaken only because of desperation….but we survived and now they know the drill and each one gets easier (she said while recharging 2 Kindles, 2 Launchpads on loan from the library and 1 iPad.) I swear, even if you don’t go the tablet route you won’t have to be the dancing bear in the car forever…just a few more years ;/


  3. I think this is one of my errors: I pack fun, new (or rarely seen) stuff and then give it to them in their own bag. They then rifle through ALL of it in 15 minutes. I need to stash up front and dole out at intervals like you recommend. Also – do they listen to the same audio books? I think the 3+-year age differences kills us here. I am saving the lip balm and bandaid ideas for sure. Thanks for the sharing all this and welcome home!


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