Childrearing

Thanks To My Kids’ Sporadic Barfing, We Nixed Many Summer Travel Plans

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Ah, summer. Picnics in the park, frolicking on the beach, sweating in the car with a fistful of wipes while your children get sick on their third change of clothes. Motion sickness is the literal damper put on our – and I’ll assume many of your – reality at the moment. And, judging by the way I still tend to turn green in the back of the cab at the first corner turned, it’s not a temporary condition.

My children have thrown up on several continents, but our home in London is possibly the least friendly to prolific barfers. The popularity of bus travel is one reason. The ridiculously windy stop-start traffic is another. There’s a gloriously ramrod straight Roman road running behind our house – that goes in one direction only. Otherwise, two blocks is about as far as you can drive without having to do a turn of 90 degrees or more (right angles didn’t figure in the urban layout till postwar times, when most of it was literally engraved in stone). If the medieval twists don’t do the trick, the ubiquitous speed bumps will polish you off.

Yes, we’ve tried everything. Those silly wristbands, for instance, ginger snaps, lemon wedges, Tic Tacs, minty gum. If they’ve had the desired effect, it hasn’t been for long. We stock motion-sickness remedies specially designed for kids. They do the trick – mainly because our kids can’t stay awake longer than 20 minutes after a swig. Alas, there’s usually a return trip, and sleeping in the car one way means, inevitably the way home will be fraught with panic attacks, multiple stops and one final, satisfying heave.

It’s got to the point where the kids will hide at the first jingle of my car keys, then dig their heels in all the way to our parking spot on the road. If there’s only one adult in charge, it can take 15 minutes to get them buckled into their seats, after which they’ll bawl into their barf bags for another 15. If they as much as smell a car interior while walking down the street, they’ll recoil in Pavlovian horror.

I should add here, for those of you thinking we are intentionally torturing our children, that we use our car once every 14 days or so. We factor carsickness into every family journey we make, and usually opt for train instead – even the bus is preferable. Gradually we’ve taken the blue pencil to most of the world’s most desirable destinations, for all the twisty road driving involved: Italy, South Africa, California… This summer we’ve nixed plans to see friend in the South of France. Yes I’m fairly certain you aren’t weeping for us. I’m just stating the facts. Our world is very, very small.

One time, while convoying in the car behind a perfect family of non-barfers, not wanting to take our third breather and lose track of them completely, we agreed to let our 5year-old sit, briefly, on my lap in the front passenger seat. She felt instantly better. So we’ve begun to wonder whether we should disable the airbag and install her car seat up there permanently.

There doesn’t seem to be any definitive word on the matter – in a legal sense, anyway. (Commenters will go ballistic at any deviation from the conventional wisdom.) This recent posting on The New York Times’ Motherlode blog certainly didn’t elucidate.

What would you do if the front seat seemed the obvious cure for your little one’s carsickness? The beach is beckoning, but the easiest way from A to B is a problem not even we can solve.

(photo: Tish1/ Shutterstock)