For ten years, Chris and I have been making the 7-hour drive down to Los Angeles to visit Chris’ family.
It has never been a super fun drive. It wasn’t fun even when we only had Ava. I remember lots of crying, complaining, and asking for snacks along the way. The rest of it I have conveniently blocked out of my brain for protection.
Then the triplets were born. This is when the drive to LA got particularly stressful. We would load the minivan with diapers and wipes and toys and clothes until we couldn’t see out of the back window. The three car seats were strapped in and in each car seat was an infant strapped in a five-point harness facing the large pile of baby shit in the rear of the car. We even rigged the babies’ white noise sleep inducing sound machine in the back for optimum car naps.
The car was littered with snacks in various bags that were all strewn around the inside of the car; raisins and Cheerios were tucked in the nooks of the seats and smooshed into the floor carpet.
There were times when we drove to LA and somebody would puke all over the car. At this point we had to get off at the nearest off-ramp, use 5,000 wipes to clean up the barf from the crevices of the carseat and then pretend like the car didn’t smell like throw-up for the next four hours.
During these infant/toddler days, I would spend the entire 7-hour car ride risking my life by climbing through the minivan calming crying children, replacing lost binkies, providing snacks, and retrieving items that had slipped through their tiny hands and fallen to the ground.
By the end of the drive I needed a Xanax or Valium, neither of which I ever had at my disposal.
In an effort to make the drive easier, Chris and I began leaving for our LA drive at bedtime. We would get the kids ready for bed, put them in the car and start the long drive South. In many ways, this “solution” to the drive was worse. Chris and I would spend the 7-hour drive on an anxiety trip, speaking only in whispers so we wouldn’t wake the terrorists. What would happen if they woke up in the middle of the night to find themselves strapped in a car seat looking at a pile of shit through the darkness? All hell would surely break loose. Then I would worry that Chris would fall asleep at the wheel and kill us all. We would show up in LA at 2am, put the kids to bed only to be woken up by them at 6am.
The road trip has evolved into a much better experience over the years. It is with immense appreciation and relief that I have come to the place in my life where we can drive all four of the children 7 hours to LA in peace. I do not precariously climb through the minivan to assist anyone. I do not see any Cheerios stuck in the seats or on the floor. There are no more diapers or wipes piled high in the trunk.
Today the 7-hour drive is an opportunity for me to clean out emails, catch up on correspondence, write and edit, and read magazines. It is relaxing. It is peaceful. It is a reward for all the years spent in the trenches of traveling long distances with triplet infants and toddlers.
Here was our strategy for this week’s road trip:
- Delay gratification. Let the kid just chill and listen to music the first hour and a half. You don’t need to pull out all the fun stuff right when you get in the car.
- Stop halfway for breakfast or lunch to fill bellies, stretch legs and go to the bathroom.
- iPad or iPod time. My kids are in the same Minecraft world, so even in the virtual world they are together. They have built themselves a community where they each have their own home but they share a community pool and hot tub.
- Books on tape. This trip we all listened to The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (thanks for the recommendation Sarah).
Despite the challenging years of road trips with infants and toddlers that most of us parents experience at one time or another, I strongly believe there is great value in taking these car trips. Kids learn a great life lesson from the road trip: be patient, sit back and enjoy the ride because there are great adventures to experience along the way and copious rewards at the end of the journey.
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.