Driving to and from the grandparents’ house for Christmas vacation got me thinking: It should be illegal to travel with small children in the backseat of a car.
The distractions caused by children far outnumber any minor diversions caused by cellphone use, hair brushing or newspaper reading while driving. I cringe when I think back to some of the journeys I took while running on three hours of sleep in the months after each child’s birth. The police should stop wasting time ticketing speeders and phone-talkers. Sleep-deprived mommas are where the real money is.
Murphy’s Laws of driving with little kids:
- Even though you have purposely played only non-toddler music in your car for two years, Murphy’s Law says that the day you have a long journey to take is the day you accidentally put in a Raffi CD. Your children will sing Baby Beluga at the top of their lungs on every car trip you take for the next three years.
- Before you start the car, each child has a favorite toy in hand. As you back away from the house someone flings a toy across the car and needs you to reach back and pick it up.
- Before you back out of the driveway, the old DVD player is dusted off and plugged in.* The light in the cigarette-lighter-plug shines bright red as you start Toy Story 3. Once you’re on the highway a child kicks the DVD player, loosens the plug and makes the red light turn off, causing you to swerve all over the mountain road (*shudder*) to try to re-start it.
- There will be vomit involved. Just please, please don’t do what a friend of mine did. A dad I know was cleaning up a stinky mess and ended up shirtless, with a naked toddler, in a parking lot at night. Yikes.
- Don’t even tempt yourself with the idea that your children will sleep the whole way. If they do fall asleep, it will happen fifteen minutes before you arrive at your destination, thus nixing any possibility of a real nap that day.
- Before the car is in reverse, each child has a snack within reach. As you drive away, one child drops a snack and needs you to stop the car to retrieve it. Every time you pass a snack to the backseat someone will complain, “Why did she get more Mini Wheats than me?” or “Why did he get his banana first?”
- At the beginning of your journey each child has a sippy cup in hand. Just as you are merging onto the highway, your toddler flips her cup upside down, gleefully shouting “Shower! Shower!” while drenching herself with milk.
- It goes without saying that you will stop for a bathroom break. If possible, have a boy before a girl. When you are travelling without backup (i.e. a husband or grandparent) and your firstborn needs to relieve himself, you can simply pull over to the side of the road; no need to drag a sleeping baby sister into a nasty truck stop bathroom.
- Just when everyone settles down and you relax a little with your coffee, the steady refrain of “ARE WE THERE YET?” starts. You are not even a sixteenth of the way there yet.
- If your baby starts the trip happily sucking on a soother, it will eventually be flung to the muddy, Cheerio-covered floor. First option: Stop the car, pick up the soother and wash it with a baby wipe. Second option: Drive with one hand and crane the other arm backwards to hold the soother in the wailing child’s mouth. For five months my daughter screamed from the moment the car started until the moment it stopped. I did what I had to do to survive.
These laws apply only to one or two-hour trips to grandma’s house. For longer trips, take a plane.
*No, I do not have a minivan with built-in DVD players. I will never own a minivan.
While roaming the aisles of a big-box toy store the other day, I realized that my 18 month old daughter could care less about 99% of the stuff for sale. I know what she wants for Christmas and it’s not a dolly that sits on the toilet or a pink plastic household appliance. Here’s a list of what every toddler really wants to see under the tree:
- A Kleenex box. The biggest one you can find, with the cardboard piece already ripped off the top. Free reign to pull the tissues out when she pleases, shred into tiny pieces and fling around the house.
- A box of Christmas oranges to dump, line up and move in and out of the box to her heart’s content.
- A toothbrush to chew as much as she wants, swirl in the toilet and poke her big brother with.
- Her own roll of tape. She can rip the tape out over and over with no one saying, “Give it back to mommy, please. Give it back to mommy” and prying it out of her tiny hands. A roll of wrapping paper from the dollar store will also go over well.
- A family sized box of rice to spread over every room of the house, just for fun. She already knows how to do this. She learned it last week in Sunday School.
- A Lego set for her to step on and throw against the wall while laughing with glee.
- An extra $10 to put towards the water bill so she can play at the kitchen sink and yell, “water! water!” as she pours, stirs and splashes joyfully.
- An expensive fabric angel decoration to hug and kiss with spaghetti-sauce-stained hands & face.
- An old plate to take to the cement floor in the garage, lift high over her head, and smash to smithereens.
Ah…the perfect Christmas.
Getting two children to sleep, stay asleep and sleep past 5:00 a.m. is an Olympic event in our house.
- Once your darling toddler is sleeping through the night again (after a brief, 9 month hiatus of getting 16 teeth), she wakes at 5:00 a.m. for a diaper change. This isn’t much to complain about if you usually rock her for 2 hours in the middle of the night, but still, 5:00 a.m. is early.
- Your toddler quickly falls back to sleep, at which point your 4-year-old immediately wakes up and asks “is it time to wake up, Momma?” in that really loud, awake-sounding voice that means he is definitely not falling back to sleep. You know the voice. Resistance is futile.
- You try everything under the sun to
forceencourage said child to stay in bed: night lights that change colour at parents’ preferred wake time, numbers printed above a digital clock with a hopeful “7:00”, begging, pleading. These things work sometimes with a singleton. It is all a little more complicated when there is an eagle-eared, sleeping toddler on the other side of a paper-thin wall.
- At every 5:00 a.m. wake up you promise yourself that you will go to bed early that night. Even if you dragged yourself around like a wet blanket all day, you will get an instant second wind the minute everyone is asleep. You stay up way too late, wake at 5:00 the next day and the pattern repeats itself over and over.
- On the day you have a babysitter booked and really, really want your toddler to have a good nap she won’t. She will have trouble getting to sleep. You will need to change her diaper two extra times. The minute she is finally sleeping your preschooler will run up the stairs, yelling, “Momma? Momma? Where ARE you?” and the little one’s eyes will burst open.
- When your youngest is between 12 and 18 months old and (some days) you manage to function somewhat normally, you will sit in the rocking chair, hum Ave Maria and stare at the beautiful, precious child in your arms. That vanilla-cupcake baby smell, the soft hair, velvety-smooth cheeks and tiny baby breaths make it all worthwhile. 🙂
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On the first birthday I celebrated after becoming a mother, I received a card with a picture like this on the front:
Inside the card was written, “Go to the bathroom alone.”
Ah, the bathroom. To someone without young children the bathroom is a sort of sanctuary. A quiet place. A place to pour a hot bath, examine gray hairs, read a magazine.
When there are toddlers and preschoolers in the house, the picture changes. On a good day, a mother will close the door and spend 18 seconds doing what she needs to do before the first knock comes. On most days in our house, the door is wide open and there are two small people watching my every move. In B’s words, “Momma, whyyyy are you putting that stuff on your eyes? It makes you look mad. Momma, whyyyy do we need toilet paper? Momma, whyyyy do we need to go pee?” And on and on.
Little A is mostly interested in trying to swirl her toothbrush in the toilet. Oh, and pointing at any water on the floor and making sure I know it is “wet!” She loves to empty out the baskets under the bathroom sink. The other day it took me 10 minutes to find my mascara. It was under my bed with some deodorant and a soother.
A few “Murphy’s Laws” of the bathroom:
- The minute a mother gets in the shower, madness enters the house. Fully clothed children will suddenly run down the hall naked. Dogs will bark. The doorbell may even ring. Children who were innocently eating Cheerios and watching Toopy and Binoo will suddenly start screaming and freaking out.
- The morning a mother allows herself a few extra minutes of sleep is the morning she finds her four-year old coated in penaten cream. Said four-year old will find the only tin of penaten cream left in the house, which is stored on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet.
- Leaving your toddler’s diaper off for a few seconds always results in some sort of accident. Our new house has already been christened 3 times by my darling daughter.
I know there are more but my brain is tired from chasing children around the cul-de-sac, picking tubs of blackberries and singing 500 Miles five hundred times at bedtime.
What happens when you try to go to the bathroom alone? 🙂
1. Even if all children are happy and occupied the moment before I immerse my hands in the gooey mess of hamburger-making, the minute I’m covered in ground beef, Little A will have Lego catwoman’s head in her mouth and will refuse to spit it out.
2. Do not let children play with cellphones! Little A was in her strap-on chair at the kitchen table. Brother B was teasing her with Big White Teddy. She grabbed BWT’s head and pulled. Brother B grabbed BWT’s back and pulled. Little A started falling forward. I started yelling. I yelled louder and did that slow-motion-but-really-fast-moving thing to grab her and prevent a disaster. I yelled some more. It all turned out fine, until I realized Little A had my cell phone and had auto-dialed the health unit. The phone was still on. It had been on for 24 seconds. The 24 seconds in which I was yelling.
All morning I waited for a call from some authority who would question my parenting skills. Thankfully they must not have had caller ID. 😉
1. As fast as you pack, your baby-who-thinks-she’s-a-toddler will unpack.
2.You’ll pack up the rarely-played-with toys first. The very next day your child will demand to see those toys, even though he or she hasn’t asked for them since last Christmas.
3. As you prepare your old house for a showing, your 4-year-old will spill a box of Cheerios and half a jug of milk on the kitchen floor. Your baby/toddler will walk through all of this, slip, fall and start screaming just as you hear the realtor’s key in the front door.
4. The biggest box will become a spaceship.
5. Your children will each try out the tape gun and permanent marker. Hide the utility knife or they will try that too.
6. At least once, you will leave a pink bra and some Buzz Lightyear underwear on the bathroom floor during a showing.
The same scenario plays out every morning while I’m in the shower and D is playing with the kiddies before work. It begins with sweet, happy-family noises and quickly escalates into exuberant, hyper, all-worked-up noises.
Once I hear both children running around our 1000 square foot bungalow, I hold my breath and wait…wait…then CRASH! “Wahhh!””Wahhh!”
Is it bad that I sometimes wait until the crying stops before I get out of the shower? 😉
Spring 2010. Shopper’s Drug Mart. My 2-year-old. He wants Smarties. I say no. Tantrum hits. Naturally, we are in the lineup and there are about 57 people behind us. Of course it is 5:00, the busiest time of day. We leave.
Last summer. At the park with friends. Our friend’s 4-year-old throws the worst tantrum ever. He sits in the car, about 100 feet away, windows open, screaming for 20 minutes. “He never does this at home,” the mom is quick to remind anyone within earshot.
Last night. A 3-year-old boy sits on the sidewalk near the beach. He is wailing. His mom is waiting by her car. She is exhausted. She refuses to give in and pick up her miserable boy. He refuses to give in and go to the car. The Italian tourists watching the sunset are gossiping furiously (in Italian) about how terrible Canadian mothers are.
Why are the worst tantrums always in public? Maybe because as parents, we know we are being watched (and judged) so we don’t handle it the way we would at home. I’d love to hear your best (worst!) tantrum stories.
Forget extra socks and your child’s rubber boots get a crack in them at the beach.
Forget raincoats and you get caught in a downpour.
Forget underwear and your toilet-training child has an accident.
Forget an extra change of clothes and a crazy dog will run up to your toddler, lick his face, jump up on him and push him into the ocean! (true story)
Even if you wait until two minutes before leaving the house to put on a clean shirt, you will need to change again. Today’s culprit was Brother B, a banana and a big hug.