I find myself doubting every move I make, the banshee’s scream from the back seat pushing me forwards yet holding me back. This hell flight will last another 20 minutes at most. I dodge left to avoid a careless pedestrian, standing like a dark sentinel ready to move at a moments notice. The kids invade my very head, tapping into personal space that should remain personal, the fibers of that space weave my consciousness, which in turn dictates my concentration. I need this facility to drive, function and survive…
#dadrule No.6 Always drive on high alert.
Driving can be a challenging endeavor before you even think about putting little ones in the back seat, there’s; lunatics in other cars hurtling through space all around you. Pedestrians who seem to care more about their social media updates, selfies, and if they have their shoes on the right feet. Traffic lights that’ve clearly been programmed to impede your journey. Not to mention speed cameras, roadside detritus, potholes, stray pets and a myriad of other things that make it a risky enterprise.
Then you throw a bunch of kids into the backseat, supply them with plenty of ballistic ammunition (shoes, drinks, food, etc.) a set of lungs each, and just enough reach to tug on your collar or pound the back of your chair with their size 4’s.
Leave it to bake for 30 minutes and assess your sanity.
Driving to the shops for milk has now become a 20 minute, out of control, 1 tonne screaming bowling ball of death that’s sure to give your blood pressure enough force to blow whole organs from the top of your head.
So what are our options?
As far as I can see you have several options; Drive like a smiling moron, gritting your teeth into an over the top grin while hating your life. Send your brain to its happy place (warning this may remove conscious thought and attention to detail). Start a screaming match with everyone and everything (we’ve all been there). Or you can try a little bit of forward planning and throw some of the above options in at appropriate times.
The #DadRule states always drive on high alert, this goes without saying, you should be doing this with or without kids in the car, but how can you make it more effective when you have the little Hobbits back there. In essence how can you diminish the backseat distraction to the point where driving’s manageable without encountering blurred anger vision?
Aside from the obvious suggestion of constructing a lucite wall between the front and back seats like in a taxi there is quite a good deal you can do.
The Emergency kit
What is it your kids need to survive any period of time? and how can we optimise that? I call it a emergency kit. I stumbled onto the concept when on long drives with my wife (no kids at this stage) I’d pack some snacks in the glovebox to prevent her from getting hangry. It basically boils down to a few key items that I hold in reserve, in the front of the car, until just before all hell breaks loose (or as it’s erupting). Heres a nifty sample of my emergency kit.
- Water bottles, 1 each for the kid (make sure they’re full before you start) word of warning empty bottles mean nothing to kids and they will end up in your lap, head, or field of vision.
- Food, either a variety of sandwiches, again 1 each for the kid and always with toppings that you know they will eat in a pinch. Some cut up fruit is always good. And for those really sticky situations lollies might be needed.
- Toys. Now space may be limited so some very small toys will have to do. Try to be selective about what toys you bring as favorites can be fought over and that my friends is the RED ZONE.
- First aid kit. This in my opinion should be a part of any cars regular accompaniment, but in this specific case imagine this: You get to the beach, or wherever, have an awesome day, but just before you pack up and leave one of the kids steps on a sharp rock or shell, suddenly theres blood, which turn into hysterics and eventually the end of your sanity, particularly when confined to a metal box hurtling down the freeway at 110km/h. Need I say more?
Ye be warned, if ye should supply youngin’s with morsels and sumptuous beverages be prepared for the leftovers to sully your horseless carriage forever.
Unattributed pirate quote
What can you do before leaving the house to mitigate the distractions.
- Toilet breaks. For the love of god they happen to me every trip. It takes 15 minutes to get in the car and I can guarantee that in the next 15 minutes one of the kids will pipe up: “I’ve got to go to the toilet.” In some cases I’ve pulled into shopping centres to use the amenities, naturally this results in the kids thinking they’re going to get something for my trouble, hell no!
- Food suggestions. It’s as simple as asking “do you want any food? What food do you want?” let them pack the emergency pack, hopefully they will know what they’ll want. This is by no means certain though.
- Toy selection. Again let them pick some toys, be a little discerning as loaded weapons (I’m looking at you Nerf) can be problematic.
- And do they have shoes? True these can and will become weapons, but when you’re dealing with more than 1 kid it can be hard to miss and there’s nothing quite so bad a 2 of 3 crying because 1 and 3 have shoes and she doesn’t.
Plan your trip.
- In this I simply mean know your destination and roughly how long it’ll take to get there; with this knowledge you can plan your emergency pack, on road entertainment, and also give the kids an idea of how long they’ll be trapped/restrained. Google maps provides directions and estimated time of arrival based on current traffic conditions, it can be pretty close to accurate.
- On road entertainment: Wiggles CD’s, Spotify, and maybe some old school games (eye-spy, the counting game, etc.) This site has some good suggestions about entertaining a toddler without a smartphone.
- Research your destination: There really isn’t anything worse than spending 45 minutes in the car to find the waterpark isn’t open till 11am, hmmm and look at the time now it’s only 9:30am
- And whatever you do don’t tell the kids where you’re going until its go time, this can be a major irritation during the hours leading up to departure, believe you me this can impact your trip majorly.
A few other things to pack to make arriving at your destination more enjoyable; Pram for kids whose legs will spontaneously stop working, more drinks and food (you really can never have too much of this stuff) hats and suncream (I live in Australia, this is always a must), a change of clothes for each child and in some cases yourself (you’ll know why I suggest this when it happens.)
As this website suggests you can use the driving experience as a chance to practice mindful meditation, although a lot of the suggestions require a quite car, a commodity that you wont have when kids are present. It does offer a piece of good advise that might be helpful when driving with kids; Switch off the radio, but instead of experiencing the silence, you could interact with the kids. Often I have to pick my wife up from work with three very tired and hungry kids (lets call the Hangry Kids). I often take this time to ask about their day, who they played with, what they want for dinner, and if they did anything fun. I don’t always get solid answers but still its often better that the alternative.
The horror of the banshee scream!
Even with all of the prep you still need to drive on high alert, kids will still; throw projectiles, scream, fight and yell, throw up, drop drinks and food beyond their reach, and then there’s the unpredictable world beyond the windscreen.
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