My husband and I thought we’d be that family that travels with their children. We’d head away for a weekend here, a family vacation there. We figured that if we did it from an early age, we’d grow happy little travelers.
And then we had Leo.
Let’s just say Leo did not travel well.
Leo screamed in the car and those mothers out there reading who had Leos of their own know that “scream” is not a strong enough word. Is your blood pressure rising as you read these words, just as mine is rising as I type? You can remember it, can’t you? The blood-curdling wails that made panic rise in your chest. Moms have a visceral reaction to that level of sadness in babies; you don’t know whether you are going to cry or vomit, but you know you need to pull that car the hell over.
I remember friends who would drive around aimlessly because they had sleeping babes in the car. I knew many a mom who would take her baby to Target at night, just to get out and feel whole. I had friends who needed to drive their children around in order to help them fall asleep. These strategies were foreign to me. Leo would revolt as soon as his little body was placed in that seat.
Well-meaning friends and family members told me:
“He’ll fall asleep eventually.”
Well, he didn’t.
I could tell you about Christmas day 2008, the first and only time we’ve ever split a holiday visiting both sides of the family. He cried on each leg of our trip, and was so worked up he cried most of each visit too. I cried once he was finally in bed and my husband and I swore we’d never split another holiday.
Or, I could tell you about July 4th weekend, also in 2008, when he and I both cried the entire traffic-filled 3+-hour drive to the Cape. He screamed the entire time.
Or, I could tell you about the time I drove 2-hours to a funeral, my arm craned behind me the entire way holding a pacifier in his angry mouth.
Or, I could tell you how every time I visited my little sister, I made her sit in the back to hold that pacifier in his sad little mouth. For years.
“He needs something to look at. Buy him a mirror. Or a musical toy. Or…”
I don’t want to think about how much I spent on car toys, folks. Nothing worked.
“Switch him to a convertible seat! The bucket seat must be uncomfortable.”
Yeah… no. That didn’t work.
“He’ll be fine once he’s forward-facing!”
I believed this one, but Leo was diagnosed failure to thrive and it took him almost 20 months on this planet to reach the 20 pounds needed to turn him around and… nothing. We turned him back around.
This one was true, but it took a long time. When Leo was 2 1/2-years-old, we purchased a DVD player for the car. This worked a little bit. He’d be quiet for approximately 20-30 minutes before he’d start wailing.
And then, right around age 3, Leo became afraid of television.
Two steps forward, three steps back.
What I’m saying is: We didn’t turn out to be that family that went away for the weekend or took a family vacation. Or, at least we didn’t very often.
We couldn’t get to friends’ houses, doctor appointments, or the supermarket without screaming and crying.
Thankfully, Leo started reading at four and our world immediately changed for the better. Reading was the only thing that kept him quiet(ish) in the car.
It only took four years, folks!
And then, miraculously, Leo overcame his TV phobia at age six and so we were able to reinstate the DVD player. We could go away with less stress and struggle!
Nowadays, at age 7, 6, and 4-years-old, my children [mostly] travel well. They love to read in the car, listen to audiobooks, play games, and watch shows.
Still, like all moms, I’m always on the hunt for materials that will keep them occupied and quiet-ish on long drives. Especially because these days, now that I have decent little travelers, I’m making up for lost time with lots of weekends in the mountains. Whenever I feel life getting too busy, I head up north to get more space.
I thought other moms out there, in similar situations, would like to know what items kept my kids quiet-ish on our latest excursion.
Disclosure: I was given Professor Murphy’s Metal Puzzles at no cost in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review and, as always, all thoughts are my own.
This road trip was brought to you by
Here are the books, games, and activities that helped me to survive several hours in the car, solo, with my little poppies. I’m happy to report that there was minimal drama!
I’ve mentioned before that Leo is Harry Potter obsessed. These were the first books that he truly mourned, and he has read and re-read them in the years since. He has been anxious to share his Potter love with his siblings and I thought that trying out the audiobooks might be a perfect introduction. I was correct! The book is read by Jim Dale and he is an amazing storyteller!
This little box includes six metal puzzles and a companion book with over thirty puzzles to solve. The metal puzzles are small and travel easily. The present a delightful challenge for puzzle lovers, and I had three puzzle lovers traveling with me! I also love that these can double as a fidget for kiddos with sensory stuff!
Welcome to Mamoko by Aleksandra Mizielinska
This amazing series is new to our family and my youngest two are obsessed. Have you heard of it? It is written by the author of one of our favorite books, and the concept is both creative and fun. These books (there are several in the series) have very few words and so they are perfect non-readers and early-readers. Readers are encouraged to follow the adventures of the various characters from page to page. It’s a mix of I Spy, adventure, humor, and fun.
Unbored Games by Elizabeth Foy Larsen
Leo received this book as a gift last Christmas and it’s been a huge hit since. Everyone knows that we are a family of game lovers, so of course we’d love a book about games! Parents will love this book because it will give you flashbacks to your childhood and all those hand-clapping and tag games you used to play. What I love about this book is that it inspires creativity. Whenever Leo reads it, he ends up creating something amazing afterward! We are on a game-making kick at the moment, so stay tuned for some posts!
Now, it’s your turn: What tips and tricks do you have for surviving road trips? Share here!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram