Car journeys with small children – box up a whole load of stress and nightmarish situations, stick them on 4 wheels that move and you have your journey.
To begin it’s all about preparing for your trip and getting in the car. This is how the preparation begins:
You: Can you please have a wee (said 1 million times)
Child(ren): I don’t need one.
You: Can you please try.
Child(ren): but I don’t need one.
You: Ok how about we both go? Look, I need to go…
Child(ren): I don’t need a wee so I don’t need to try.
With the 3 year old you get desperate and embark on pretending to drive the ‘toilet train’ calling out ‘All aboard’ and ‘Who wants to board the toilet train?! – first time it’s ever done it works, they bloody love it. Second time not interested and look at you like you’re an embarrassment.
You finally accept that maybe, just maybe, they are right, they know their own body and they really and genuinely don’t need to go.
Load up the car, all get in and belt up, start the engine.
Child: Mum, I need a wee.
Brilliant. Fantastic. All out and back in the house. Still, at least on this occasion it was called before you left the drive so happy days.
Then comes the shoe/coat meltdown. Little people like to either wear as many clothes as humanly possible or as little. If they dress themselves for the garden, they don just about every item they own, usually a totally random array of stuff. If needing to dress for an’outing’ in the car they like to go in shorts and t-shirt if possible, whatever the weather. You end up surrendering to the toddler protest, who is making out that clearly their coat is acid coated and burns their skin upon contact. You ditch the coat and shoes in the foot well of the car and carry your child to their seat.
By this point in our house Middle F realises that Big T has brought a completely wicked toy into the car with him.
Rookie boy error- he’s spent such a long time performing the coat/shoe hoo ha that he had none left to find a toy for the journey, however his older brother used the time wisely to potter around and locate something totally awesome to take along.
Cue next protest as your small child demands what they would like to take on the journey, usually taking the form of something crap that you know you binned that morning. Such as the Macdonalds toy from yesterday’s HappyMeal. Bollocks. (I’d like to point out here that we choose the option of ‘milk’ for their HappyMeal drink which instantly cancels out any of the other rubbish that they’re eating)
Although not always desirable I’ve got to admire Middle F’s stamina, he once travelled the distance from Chelmsford to Colchester with the sick bowl on his head. Not a massively long journey but long enough to show grit and determination when all you can see is a distorted view through a manky bowl. Who needs the shitty Macdonalds toy now when you have a sick bowl to keep you entertained?!
On Good Friday we made the journey to Norfolk to visit family. All started well other than Middle F developing a temperature the night before and was clearly feeling really rough. Nearly at our destination and we hit bank holiday traffic. Now there’s one thing worse than having a car full of little people on a long(ish) journey, and that’s having a car full of little people in gridlocked traffic.
Little B begins to scream, he screams so much he begins to sweat, Middle F starts saying his tummy hurts and his head is on fire as his temperature soars again.
We are in standstill traffic.
I’m leaning back from the front seat like a contortionist attempting to locate Little B’s dummy and offer it to him, whilst slightly rocking his car seat and trying to hold my phone blaring out white noise relatively close to his ear. Every 30 seconds poor Middle F says that his belly hurts and he wants me to ‘drub’ it for him. I start sweating and develop Tourettes in my head which takes the form of constant swearing (commonly a little like ‘Shitty, shitty, shit fuck’) followed up with wanting to shout abuse at every driver like ‘Why the bloody hell are you letting someone else out in front of you, you over considerate bastard! We have no time for kindness here, just get moving and block the bugger out!’
Never in your life have you been more tempted to drive straight across a field just so your car is moving again. You begin manically pointing out pigs and birds to try and distract the children, when there are no animals in sight you resort to trying to spark up a conversation by marvelling at how big the Sainsburys building is. Desperation.
The traffic moves on, the screaming subsides, slightly curing the Tourettes, and you return to a half normal parent again with less angry thoughts.
We don’t have much luck with our car CD player and frequently get them stuck in there. How long each one will be in is anyone’s guess, it’s a lottery. Most unfortunate jam for me was when the children’s ‘Summer Disco’ CD became lodged and we had to listen to ‘Hey Baby’and ‘Mambo number 5’ on repeat for weeks. My sanity was gradually being sapped from me with every journey.
Most unfortunate jam for me looking like a crap parent was when Rhianna became stuck and lyrics such as ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down’ were being blared out of the car with the kids in tow. Had to curb those after that following a few looks from disapproving pedestrians.
The journey back from Norfolk was slightly better however Little B did begin crying again pretty soon into it and was rapidly vamping up the volume to his pleas for help. We pulled over so I could feed him in a rubble area beside a playing field. It was totally pissing it down but the boys needed a wee. Thank god for the wee bottle. Used by the two eldest males in the car Middle F wanted a piece of the action and tried to pee in it too. Such fun.
We could have parked anywhere in the large area where there were no cars, but without thinking parked directly next to the only other one there for us to breastfeed and take it in turns to pee in a bottle. Usual activities for the other driver to see I’d say.
You’re extra lucky if travel sicknes doesn’t raise its head too, that can be a right pain, especially when you discover that your resident sick bowl has a crack across the bottom.
Big T and Middle F like to have a chat in the car about what they can see enroute. Big T told me on one of our short trips that he just saw a little old lady do a ‘skillful trick’ with her old lady trolley by flipping it over then whipping it back again. Think it was more a poor old dear getting in a scrape with her shopping aid on a windy day, but like the fact my son saw it more as a lady with a few cool tricks up her sleeve.
You can always add the children arguing in the back to extend the joys of travel. One good one recently went as follows:
Big T: you are Willy Wonka (ANY excuse to say ‘willy’)
Middle F (cross): no I’m Fireman Sam.
Big T: no you’re Willy Wonka
Middle F: no I’m Fireman Sam
….and on it went….
Big T loved finding out that the whale in Free Willy was in fact called ‘Willy’, one of the funniest pieces of information ever. Fact.
To some, car journeys don’t bother them. They could drive to the other end of the country and more with a car full of kids and happily sit back and enjoy the ride. To me, it often includes at least a degree of stress and at a few ‘Holy crap, shittery, shitty shit!’ moments.
I saw a guy the other day who I think had the right idea, he was a fully grown adult bombing it along the pavement alone on his push along scooter. Wind in his hair, Not a care in the world, now that I believe is the way to travel.
Living. The. Dream.