Monday, September 29, 2014

Toddler in a Car — Road Tripping with The Boy

900 miles.

450 miles south and a return trip of 450 miles straight back north. That's how far we drove this past weekend. All told, it amounted to about 13 or 14 hours on the road. 

This is far from the first time we've loaded up the family truckster and taken the boy south. He's getting to be a veteran of these trips now. 

And, thus far in our road tripping experience, Mrs. Blackwell and myself have been quite fortunate in that he's a good little traveler. Unless of course, we're on an airplane. But, as long as we remain on four wheels there is minimal crying, minimal whining and little fussing of any kind. 

But that doesn't mean there was minimal disruption. 

Oh no, not at all.

On our way south we left at dusk. We began the trip by filling the boy — and ourselves — with food so as to hasten his drifting off into never never land. I can't recall when the boy fell asleep but, I do know we spent the last couple of hours of the trip using our quiet voices so he stayed down. 

The trip prior to him falling asleep is a bit of a blur — probably due to all the beer I was drinking. (Kidding.) 

No, it was the trip home that stands out with real clarity. We left in the late morning and got home sometime after 6:30 p.m. In between, I managed to listen to about 25 minutes of a football game and let me tell you how fun football on the radio is.....

When the radio wasn't on the boy was providing his own soundtrack. 

The Good: 
On the way, we stopped at this huge medieval-ish playground.
Upon hearing some kids playing a "murdery" game of hide
and go seek Mrs. Blackwell decided we were outta there.
FYI: stay away from Tuscola, Illinois. Just sayin'.

There was giggling, gyrating, swinging of feet and lots of laughter. It's a crucial point to mention that Mrs. Blackwell sat in the back seat to keep the boy company on both legs of this journey. 

The boy doesn't need much maintenance but, like any two-year-old, he gets bored sitting in the same spot. Having mom back there to distract him from the tedium and cajole him into high spirits is invaluable. 

But, even mom's entertainment value has its limits and that's where our little friend Mr. Smartphone comes into play. All of which brings us to....

The Bad: 

I've mentioned in this space before that the boy has the capacity to repeat the first 26-29 seconds of a song in perpetuity. He doesn't care. It's R. Kelley's Ignition (a special thanks to iTunes for ensuring that, no matter how many times it's removed from the phone this song is always a button push away from downloading). Cake's "Symphony in C." Ben Folds "Rockin the Suburbs" and the Killers "All These Things That I've Done."

You might like some of these songs but I defy anyone to tell me they're cool with hearing the first half minute of each played on an endless loop. 

Fearing that we might be enabling the boy to develop a short attention span like his father, we're curbing this practice. But in special circumstances, like being locked in a car for 450 miles, the rules change. 

So, while we'd normally take the phone away from him and he'd cry and we'd all find a way to deal with it, that's a non starter in the closed quarters of an automobile. And, God bless the boy, he knew he had carte blanche.

After a while I began to internally debate if the boy's crying was more tolerable than his 30-second song loop. 
Picture taken pre-milkshake. Notice the crushed paper car
in the foreground. No sooner did I make it than the boy
decided he wasn't ready for fun of any kind.

It's a testament to just how grating and blood-pressure boiling this exercise is that, when the boy grunted and our car filled with the smell of a full diaper, I was relieved to have an opportunity to pull over and take the phone away from him. 

(He freaks out less when the phone is taken away while his diaper is being changed. I wish I knew why but, like the migration of the Monarch Butterfly, it's one of nature's mysteries.)

After a ten-minute break, we returned to the road. Maybe an hour later the boy finally did what all toddlers eventually do in such circumstances — he reached his breaking point. Sooner or later, their discomfort can no longer stand and no remedy we parents devise will assuage the oncoming onslaught of red cheeks, tears and unbridled anger. 

In those instances there is only one thing to do: stop for milkshakes. 

The Berries

In full candor, I think Mrs. Blackwell and I had reached the end of our collective rope too but, with just 70 miles of road between us and our front door, I was reluctant to stop.

But, it's amazing how persuasive 15 seconds of a crying toddler can be. So we stopped and ordered our shakes. 

Simply exiting the vehicle wasn't enough for the boy as he needed a few more minutes to decompress. Even the "kids' kit" of coloring paper and crayons couldn't assuage his residual anger. 

Fortunately, the strawberry shake did just the trick — for all of us.  

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