Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Riding in Cars With Kids

South Carolina beach sunrise

In September, we went on vacation.

The anniversary of the day my dad died is hard, and this year my in-laws graciously and wonderfully offered to let us invite my mom along for a week at their place down by the beach. Mom drove herself from Illinois to our house, and when we took off we were split into two parties: Jason went with his dad in his dad’s truck, and my mom and I took the girls in my mom’s car.

My children are excellent at road trips… as long as they take place late at night when they’re too sleepy to kick up much of a fuss.

Turns out that when you leave first thing in the morning, all that "good at road trips" stuff becomes a joke I tell myself to stay sane.

I started out driving, with my mom in the passenger seat.

First Ellie fussed and cried, cried and fussed.

Then Audra started whining.

Then Ellie drifted off, only to be jolted back awake by Audra making what I will generously call “a joyful noise”.

Then Ellie whined while Audra fussed.

Eventually, I pulled off the road and Mom took over driving while I wedged myself into the middle between my two children, who proceeded to use this as a sign to start whine-crying in stereo.
When I was pregnant with Audra, I smugly told myself I would never be that mom who relied on digital devices to make it through a road trip.

An hour into our drive to the beach, Audra had a Leap Pad in hand, episodes of Bubble Guppies playing to soothe her into an entertained stupor, so that I could focus on handing Ellie every single object in the car to look over, inspect, toss over the side of her car seat, and cry about, eventually also including my cell phone.

We ended up stopping approximately three times in the last hour of the drive alone, which was momentarily an improvement (yay! my children aren't crying!) but also much much worse (crap! we're back in the car and my children are crying again!).

By the time we made it into the town the beach house is in, I had sent Jason nine thousand text messages of increasing panic and, eventually, just sent him this photo:

Oh, and then it turned out the GPS was set to the wrong address and, with whine-crying baby and whiny toddler on either side of me, we had to try and figure out what had gone wrong to get where we were supposed to be.

Luckily, correcting the mistake only took two or three minutes, but it was the longest two or three minutes ever.

Thanks to people who essentially live in their golf carts because hey, who needs a car at the beach, that last half mile was infinitesimally slow, and I finally just unbuckled my crying baby from her carseat and held her in my arms while my mom crept at 10 miles an hour behind the happiest, most oblivious golf-cart-ridin' couple I've ever seen in my life.

Judge if you want, but it was the happiest she’d been all day.

We tumbled out of the car, my children and I disheveled, exhausted, and covered in crumbs from the many snacks I had attempted to placate them with.

When we opened the door next to Ellie's carseat, a giant pile of wispy Kleenexes, plastic toys, rejected food, bottles, and other debris clattered to the ground.

A few graham cracker bunnies lay, forlornly, on the concrete.

My mother looked at my husband and said, “They really weren’t that bad.”

I’m not entirely sure my mother experienced the same car ride I did.

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