My husband and I recently packed our toddlers into the car for a six hour drive to visit his family. Thanks to traffic, eight hours after we set out we arrived at our destination. I learned a lot on our journey, and in case anyone out there is planning on traveling with young ones anytime soon, here’s what you can expect.
1. Demand that you and your husband wake up before the sun to get an early start. Pack up the trunk using a flashlight and all of your considerable Tetris skills honed in middle school to get everything to fit. Make sure you accidentally pack the diaper bag in the way back and underneath of all the other stuff, so that when your son has a blow out an hour into your drive, you can hate yourself as you unload the entire trunk in the middle of a rest stop parking lot.
2. Breathe a sigh of relief when the children fall back to sleep before you leave your neighborhood. Enjoy a moment to gloat while you tell your still sleepy husband “I told you so” because leaving at four in the morning really was a good idea. Envision a quiet drive filled with deep philosophical conversations with your partner.
3. Since things are going so well, offer to stop for Starbucks before you get on the highway. The kids are sleeping and they usually sleep for three more hours at home, plus now they are being lulled by the car, so surely you will have a nice chunk of quiet time. Try not to curse when they awake before you finish your latte because it’s impossible to get comfortable while strapped in a car seat.
4. Reach for the backpack full of toys and board books you so carefully assembled after hours of Pinterest research. Remember that the bag is in the very bottom of the trunk, under both high chairs and a Pack and Play. Toss random trash, such as empty coffee cups and old receipts at your children as makeshift toys until you reach the next rest stop and can access the trunk.
5. The tiny back seat drivers are none too pleased at being cooped up and you’re worried that their screams will distract your husband into having an accident, so you decide to go sit with them. Channel your inner stunt woman as you unbuckle and twist yourself like a pretzel to climb back. Tell yourself that if anyone driving by sees you, you totally look like Angelina Jolie in Mr. And Mrs. Smith right now. Once you manage to get into the back seat, wedge yourself between the two giant car seats and instantly vow to eat nothing but salad during this trip.
6. Congratulate yourself on packing healthy snacks like bananas and cheese sticks. Try not to feel too guilty when all those snacks are either eaten or mashed into the upholstery by hour four and you drive up to the first McDonald’s you see.
7. In an effort to keep the kids entertained for the next three hours, you do your best impression of Barney. You sing, you use baby socks to make hand puppets, you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar from memory. Who cares if you’re losing your voice or you can no longer feel your lower limbs from being smushed in the middle seat- the kids aren’t crying, so you’re calling this a win.
8. Admit defeat when your sock puppets are shoved away and the boys cover their ears and wail when you try to sing to them. Crawl back into the front seat looking less like Angelina and more like Steve Urkel. Pop in the CD of kiddie songs that you received as a baby shower gift and vowed you would never listen to. When the kids stop crying and start chair dancing to Old McDonald you decide you care more about having quiet than being a cliche.
9. An hour away from your sister-in-law’s house, ask your husband to pull over onto the shoulder of the highway so you can get sick. Turning around repeatedly in a moving car is harder on your stomach than the tallest roller coaster at Six Flags. Remind yourself that your sister-in-law is a wine enthusiast as motivation to get back in the car and keep going.
10. Arrive at destination two hours late and desperately needing to pee. Try to enjoy your time with family while ignoring the fact that you need to pack up and do the entire trip in reverse three days later.