Riding in cars with children

Most people say that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” After our trip to Washington, DC this past weekend, I would submit to you that the true definition of insanity is willingly going on a long car trip with a child. After more than 28 hours locked inside of a moving vehicle with my children (we have two boys ages 9 and 10, going on 68 and 6 respectively), I know that I am barely hanging on to my own frayed tether to reality.

Bethesda, MD (where we were staying) is about 13-14 hours away from our house by car. This is a long time for anyone to spend in a car, regardless of whether or not kids are involved. We considered flying briefly but rejected that option due to cost, my own extreme dislike of flying, and the likelihood that boys would cause some kind of major incident while waiting in the security line or during the flight, up to and including causing the pilots and crew to bail out of the plane midflight and leaving us to our own devices. We also considered breaking up the over a couple of days but we only had a limited amount of time and wanted to spend as much time as possible in DC. So, we made the decision to drive up and back in one day.

Before we left, I thought I had taken sufficient precautions to make this trek as painless as possible. We brought along several books and games for the boys to play in the car, and I loaded their iPads up several new TV episodes and movies (though not nearly enough as it turns out). Being smarter than the average dad (or so I thought), I brought along a couple of chargers for those iPads so that we could recharge along the way since the 14+ hour trip would far outstrip the battery life available. Well, here’s the rub. Apparently either the chargers or the some of the outlets in our car don’t support charging iPads (though they will charge iPhones, which seems odd), and even if you are plugged into an acceptable outlet the charge going out far exceeds that which is coming in, so you cannot use the iPad while charging, which basically meant that our Plan A distraction had about a 5-6 hour time limit.

Fortunately we got lucky for a while and some time was spent like this.

Lucky kid. I wish I could sleep in a car like that.

Lucky kid. I wish I could sleep in a car like that.

Sadly, that did not last long. Oh well, shame on me for not checking out our charging options more thoroughly.

Sheer boredom though is not the biggest enemy you face when travelling with kids. They are surprisingly self sufficient when it comes to entertaining themselves – sorry, I couldn’t keep on typing that with a straight face and good conscience. Of course boredom the biggest enemy you face when traveling with kids. And here’s the thing you need to understand about my kids – when they get bored, their mischievous, sarcastic side comes out (gee, I wonder where they got that from?) and it becomes fun for them to play “how far can we make the vein on mom’s head bulge before she snaps and then turn our fire on the goofy pale dude next to her and start all over?” game. Mix this with their natural inquisitiveness, short attention spans, and incredibly small bladders and you have a recipe for the disaster.

Here’s some examples.

Me (before we leave): “Does anyone have to go to the bathroom before we go?”

Them: “No.”

Me: “Are you sure?”

Them: “Yes.”

Me: “Are you really sure?”

Them: “Yeeeeesssss, dad. We’re not babies.”

(Two minutes later, when we get to the end of the block.) “I have to go to the bathroom.” (Fortunately for their sake that was my wife.)

Amazingly, while the iPads with the Angry Birds and Monsters University were cooking, nobody had bathroom issues. Once that ship had sailed and they were left with the books, conversation, and scenery, there was a nonstop barrage of “I gotta go!” and “When are we stopping again?” and “I know I didn’t have to go five minutes ago!”

And there’s also this gem, courtesy of my son Brandon, who is the single most inquisitive person I know.

B: “What states are we travelling through on this trip?”

Me: “Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.”

B: “What state is Washington in?”

Me: “Well it’s not a state. It’s a separate entity called the District of Columbia? They took a little of Virginia and a little of Maryland and made it.”

B: “So which state is it a part of?”

Me: “Neither one.”

B: “Oh. Why are we going to Maryland. I thought we were going to Washington.”

Me: “We are, but our hotel is just over the Maryland state line in Bethesda. It’s near where mommy and daddy used to live.”

B: “Oh.” (Sound of gears turning in his head.) “What state are we in now?”

Me: “We’re in (insert state here).

B: “How far are we from the state border?”

Me: “We are (X) miles from the border.”

B: “Will you tell me when we get to the border?”

Me: “Yes, didn’t I tell you I’d let you know every time we crossed into a new state?”

B: “Yes, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t forget.”

Me: “Have I forgotten yet?”

B: “No.”

(Repeat the last 7 lines approximately every 16 minutes.

(Cut to 20 minutes later, me forgetting to tell him that we crossed the border. Doh.)

And then there’s those blasted South of the Border signs. EVERY MILE. Which of course led to a “can we stop there?” question every mile (in fairness, most of those came from Mrs. Lo. Hope that bottle opener was worth me losing a large portion of my soul, Jacob.) Those all culminated in this. I’m working through my issues with South of the Border and hope to be on the road to recovery soon.

The boys being able to read now leads to some more fun questions, thanks to the many fine business establishments that advertise their wares along I-95.

B1: “What does “ris-kay” mean?”

Me: “What?”

B2: “There’s a sign for a place called “Café “Ris-Kay.”

Me: “Um, don’t know. Never been there.”

B1: “What does “We Bare All” mean?”

Me: “Are those iPads charged yet?”

I had some issues with the state of Virginia. First off, you ride past the Phillip Morris USA headquarters along the way, and their sprawling campus features this little beauty.

Hello, flavor country.

Hello, flavor country.

B1: “Dad, what is that?”

Me: “It’s a big cigarette. This company makes tobacco products.”

B1: “I thought smoking was bad. That sign looks pretty cool.” *feigns smoking*

Me: “It is bad for you, especially since you have asthma.”

B1: “James Bond smokes. And he’s awesome.”

Me: “Well, people didn’t know back then it was bad for you.”

B2: “I want to be like James Bond!” *feigns smoking again*

B1: “How far are we from the border?”

Me: *face palm*

So thanks for that Ian Fleming and Phillip Morris USA.

We eventually made it there and back, though barely. I’m still not convinced that flying would be any easier or more pleasant of an experience, especially with the threat of a TSA “inspection” as retribution for one of my kids pantsing an air marshal or something. As for the visit to DC itself, it was a blast. There’s more still to come on that, but this post is already longer than one of Brandon’s geography inquisitions.




Posted on October 29, 2013, in Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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