We're going to talk about what I learned from our recent road trip to the left coast. Some of our close friends have a young boy the same age our daughter. We decided to rent a mini-van and drive 30 hours round trip with two almost two-year-olds in the van. Before leaving I solicited advice from friends and forums alike. Below is some feedback on the advice I received and some advice of my own.
Advice I Took Reviews: Hope vs. Reality
After wading through all of the jokes about whiskey, chloroform and Nyquil here are a few of the tips I took to heart.
Bring lots of toys.
I liked this idea. We'd fill a couple bags with the kids' favorite toys and every time they got bored we'd say something like "I'm sorry you're bored little child. Here is your favorite Muno doll. Please hold him and be silent for the next seven hours."
Kid 1 wants kid 2's toys. Kid 2 doesn't want any toys. Kid 1 screams. Kid 2 laughs. Kid 1 continues screaming. Kid 1 throws toy ball at driver's feet where it wedges under the brake pedal. Chaos ensues.
Bring Pillows. They'll probably sleep most of the time.
Sleep. Sweet, silent sleep. Aren't sleeping kids beautiful? They have cute little snores and sometimes blow little spit bubbles while they dream about how much they love their parents.
They slept – one at a time… for about fifteen minutes. The other one, noticing kid 1 was sleeping, took this opportunity to cry some more. This was done with the sole intention of waking up the other child. How do I know this? Because every once in awhile the crying child would pause, check to see if the other had woken up yet, and then continue crying. Once they had accomplished their mission, both children would be awake and crying. Chaos would ensue.
This was probably the best idea yet. I can't control the kids, but I can control if I hear them or not. I brought my nice over-ear Skull Candy headphones and prepared for 14 hours of This American Life.
If my wife is listening to screaming kids I had better be listening too. My wife is really good at talking with her eyes, and the first time I put them on her eyes very clearly told me "Take those f'ing head phones off and experience this madness with me or I will crawl up there, rip them off of your skull and throw them out the window." The headphones remained off for the rest of the trip. I embraced the chaos.
My Own Tips that May or May Not Work For You
Here are my toddler road trip tips.
1.Plan your lunch stops ahead of time. We spent a lot of time frantically checking our cell phone mapsfor kid friendly places to eat. A little Googling ahead of your trip will make a big difference when it's time to pull off the freeway.
2.Kids music and sing alongs. You'd be surprised how many times you'll sing "If You're Happy and You Know It…" if it means they willbe happy and you will know it. Plus, all of my eye-rolling cynicism about kid's music melted away the second I saw my daughter stop crying and start clapping.
3. Only take the kids out of the car when absolutely necessary. The hardest times were right after we got the kids back in the car. I imagine it was even worse for them.It's like going back to jail. For a two year old four hours in a car is nearly the same percentage of life that four days in prison would be to a 30 y/o. Really. I just spent five minutes doing the math. No, I'm not going to show my work. Prove me wrong in the comments. Bottom line, if you're going to give your kid freedom, be ready for them to scream like hell when you take it away.
4. Pirate Booty.Sanity saver. Chaos Slayer. Seriously. Love the stuff. So did the kids.
5.BE ADAPTABLE. BE ADAPTABLE. BE ADAPTABLE. Your starting points and stopping points may be set, but everything else is up in the air. Like I said before, plan your lunches but don't stress if you need to change them. Stop when you need to stop. Let your sanity be your guide.
It really wasn't too bad. For the most part, it was a fun ride and the time we spent on the coast was well worth any trouble on the way up and back. We made it one piece, and only once, just outside Bend, Oregon did I look back and see that not only were the kids weeping, so were the moms… it was Mother's Day. All I could think was "Happy Mother's day ladies. We're going to strap your kids into seats and have them scream at you for a couple hours. Surprise!"
There were some nice moments too. On the way home, just after we crossed got into Utah County (about an hour or so outside of Salt Lake) a miracle occurred.Both kids fell asleep at the same time. All four adults made eye contact with each other and smiled. It was peaceful, serene and heartwarming, and all of our eyes communicated the exact same thing to each other: "If you make a single, solitary sound… I will murder you."
Pass the Pirate Booty (Quietly),
P.S. One quick notes about products I mentioned in this blog. I was not contacted asked or compensated by either company. Pirate Booty really is awesome.
Next time on Ask Your Dad Blog: Parenting: Everything You're Doing is Wrong OR What I've Learned from the Internet
I drop my daughter off at my mother-in-law's house in the mornings. This is one of my daddy jobs. Because it requires me to wake up earlier than usual, and because I am lazy, I fought it as long as I could. At first I told my wife I couldn't do the morning drop off because I was going to wake up early and go to the gym. She supported my decision to lead a healthier life. That lasted two weeks. One of the unfortunate things about sharing a bed with someone is that they know when you aren't waking up early to go to the gym.
Next I told her that I'd rather do the pick up after work because daylight savings was coming and it would allow me to spend more time with our daughter in the day light. I explained that I read an article that quoted a study that father-daughter daylight interaction is a direct factor in keeping your kids off meth and the pole. So unless she wanted a pipe smoking stripper toddler, it would probably be best if she dropped her off in the morning and I did the afternoon pick up. I call this my "Trivial Pursuit Tactic." I find when playing Trivial Pursuit, that as long as I sound confident in my answer, then most people at the table will agree that it is correct. I may get the question wrong in the end, but at least people nod in agreement for a second. My wife refuses to play Trivial Pursuit with me, and my Daddy Daughter Day Light Savings Meth-Head Stripper Prevention Strategy idea only worked about as long as it took for me to say it.
So now I drop the kid off at the mother-in-law's. And your know what? I love it. Here are a few reasons why:
Toddlers are floppy love buckets in the morning.
There is no time my daughter loves me more than when I wake her up at 7 AM. I realize that this is going to change someday, but for now I am her rising sun. She greets me with a subtle smile and hugs me as long as I'll let her.If I ask for a hug or a kiss in the evenings most times I'll get a defiant "No!" accompanied by an attempt to stab me in the eye with a crayon. Not in the mornings. In the mornings Dad is the bees knees.
We have alone time in the morning
When I used to pick her up, I had the length of the car ride home to interact one on one. This was enough time for a run through of the ABC's and a short discussion of relevant political topics. We would barely get to Itsy-Bitsy-Spider, let alone start with celebrity gossip before pulling into the driveway. Now, in the mornings, we have interactions that make me feel like more of a dad than a chauffeur. She hangs out in the bathroom and watches me shave. I get her dressed and say fun commands like "Arms Up!"I also get to pack her to-go bag. This lets me play the occasional prank on grandma like packing a striped shirt and plaid shorts, or not packing any diapers or socks. Then, around noon, I'll get an e-mail from my wife that says "Did you know you didn't pack any diapers for Daughter," and I'll reply "oops," and everyone laughs. Good times are had by all.
And finally... I secretly enjoy that I make my daughter cry.
Lately, when I bring my daughter into my mother-in-law's house she clings to me as if I were leaving her forever. When I gently peel her from her death grip and hand her to Grandma she gives me this look that says "Why?" When I leave, her lip quivers until I walk out of the room, and as I exit to the garage I can hear her sobs grow louder as they fade into the increasing distance between her and I. It is horribly wonderful. Part of me is so happy that my little girl loves me enough to know she's going to miss me. I know, I should want my girl to be happy all the time, but that's not going to happen. At least this time it is a cry that says she wishes she had more than a half hour in the morning to hang out with her dad. I wish I did too honey. I really do. But at least we've got our mornings. "The itsy bitsy spider…"
Next time on Ask Your Dad: I finally deliver the baby road trip blog I promised last time. I'm having some trouble filling in the spots that I've supressed (mainly a 50 mile stretch outside Bend Oregon).
Well here we go. Let's start with introductions. I'm dad. I'm also a father to be. This is a daddy blog. This is a father to be blog.
I have a two year old daughter and a yet-to-be-determined bun in my wife's oven. (S)he'll be here in November. We live in a middle class suburb in a house that accounts for more of our income than it should. We own a tiny, squirrel-dog Chihuahua thing that I hated at first, but grew to love as soon as I realized that its shits were the size of tic-tacs that didn't require me to trounce around the yard with a grocery bag and shovel on some sick fecal treasure hunt. We also have a small saltwater tank with two clown fish: Bert and Ernie. At one time we had a yellow fish named Big Bird, but he died and Bert and Ernie ate him.
There you go: me (Dad), wife, 1.5 kids, kind of a dog and two fish. Pretty run of the mill. We had the pets before the kid and aside from the cannibalism incident, which I figured was more of an anomaly than a trend, we kept them mostly alive and happy. We figured a couple tiny humans would be a breeze, AND eventually they would evolve past the poop only phase of their lives and mow the lawn. Win/win.
So now we come to the blog. I guess I should outline a few key points.
This is not an advice blog. It is a joyful cry for help.
I have no sage advice to offer. I am an inexperienced parent clawing my way through my kid's formative years. I'm going to write about our lives from a young father's perspective. I'll write what I'm doing, what works, what doesn't, and try and make it entertaining and funny. I am in no way an "authority" on what I'm writing about. I welcome/want/request feedback, criticism, conversation, and advice in the comments. My hope is to engage in the parenting blogger community and create conversation.
I have no idea what I am doing.
Case in point: The other day I was changing my daughter's poopy diaper and its sticky tab got caught on the wipe I was using to clean her off. The wipe then became a leash for the poopy diaper and I accidentally pulled it off the changing table. It dangled from the wipe for a split second, a sword of poopoclese if you will, before gravity overcame the sticking power a diaper tag has on a wet wipe and the diaper fell butter side down on top of my bare foot. I then blamed my daughter for it and calmly explained that I wasn't mad, just disappointed. As if to acknowledge my disappointment, she smiled and patted my arm calmly with her hand… her hand that, moments before, had been manually smearing the remaining poop on her butt while I had been distracted by her diaper's descent. And I was worried about cleaning up dog poo!
Anyway, my current philosophy is that I'll do my best and shower often.
Despite any frustrations or general bitching expressed herein, I genuinely LOVE being a father and everything that comes with it. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you all and hope you'll enjoy, follow, and comment back.
With love and baby poop,
Next week on Ask Your Dad Blog: 30 hours of driving with two toddlers. I go insane and everyone cries so you don't have to.