When the kids were small, the weekend trip to my parents’ house in Belfast, a mere three hours’ drive, was quite the ordeal. Three hours of my manic ‘we’re nearly there!’ didn’t provide much reassurance.
On the day of travel, I would be in state of mild panic; have I remembered the cot sheets? travel cots? steriliser? don’t forget to leave out enough food and water for the cats and the chickens, don’t forget to leave the dog at Stu’s work (a veterinary practice where she’ll receive better care than at home).
I would be almost ready to go and waiting for the call from Stu to say he’s on his way home, as his line of work can be a tad unpredictable. If he got back later than expected, it might be nearly time for another bottle-feed – then we were royally screwed. That would mean our journey had been set back at least another hour, with possibly another round of feeds, nappy changes, burping and of course I’d have to get the steriliser out to make another set of bottles for the journey. Yesterday I was asking myself why I hadn’t started this blog earlier? This is why Olivia! You didn’t have time for a scratch! Anyway..
My husband would have driven and I would have been stretched into the backseat, holding a crying baby’s hand or providing soothers and teddies. Before we left, the car boot (that’s the trunk for ye Yanks) would be packed high with all those aforementioned, essential-non-essential baby items. Despite a well thought-out list made days ahead of travelling, we’d always manage to forget something. Although we never forgot the soothers. I’d have my pockets stuffed with soothers, easy to grab when one of the babies kicked off. I needed so many because remember, we’re talking about two babies, two tired babies who will probably drop their soothers under my car seat, or two angry babies who might throw them back at me. It’s the only solution when you’re travelling in one of the fast lanes of the motorway. A stinky nappy (or two) isn’t so bad. You can always open a window and wait and pray for the next services station or safe area to pull in. High-pitched screaming and wailing on the other hand, when you’re travelling at high-speed and your full concentration is paramount, is akin to living life on the edge. When they were babies I’d long for them to sleep during this trip, for the sake of our safety and my tired nerves. Some days, they’s sleep for the entire journey and we would all arrive pleasant and refreshed, then there were days when neither would sleep and they might cry on and off and we’d have to pull in again and again. Belfast would feel further and further away.
Now that they’ve outgrown soothers, there are other little tricks you can play…Portable DVD players are great, but I can’t help feel guilty for turning them into unresponsive, miniature zombies for the duration of the journey. I’d rather they were looking out the window, seeing the world go by, helping to stimulate their natural curiosity. We try to sing songs, or talk about what they’re learning at Montessori, maybe describe the trees (it being Autumn and all). Only the other day, I said ‘Oh wow look at all the lovely orange leaves. What other colours can you see?’ My little boy said ‘Look mummy, those trees are deciduous trees. They lose all their leaves. Isn’t that right?’ Well I was shocked, impressed, proud and humbled all at the same time. Clearly I needed the take our conversations up a gear. Now I’ve come to enjoy our car journeys. It creates a lovely, intimate time for us to talk, in fact it’s when I hear all the lovely little stories and they might even teach me new songs. My other little trick is : I’ve swapped the soothers for m&ms. Call it bribery and corruption or incentive and reward – it works for me!