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Have toddler, will travel

May 4, 2010

Driving with my two-year-old son does not drive me crazy. He is a pleasantly portable child, and that’s lucky, because we drive everywhere. We love to take long Sunday drives looking for scenic stops.  We live 30 minutes from the grocery and between 300 and 1500 miles from many of our friends and most of our family. So, because in rural Arkansas airfare is runway robbery, we’ve taken the long way to Chicago (six months), Austin and Houston (9 months), the Virginia coast (18 months). Not to mention the many short trips (read: six hours or less) in between to Kansas City, Little Rock and Dallas.

He hasn’t made everything easy. He had colic. He once went 13 days without pooping. He took at least 18 months to begin sleeping through the night, and still on some nights, being alone in the crib at 3 a.m. just doesn’t agree with him . And daytime sleeping? He laughs in the face of schedules. He and napping have gone on hiatus for days – once, months  – at a time. He’s afraid of elevators and teethbrushing. He quickly becomes restless in high chairs, shopping carts and the bath. His behavior during his recent haircut is best described as physical assault.

But he loves to be in the car. Sometimes he actually asks to sit in the Britax, holds his arms out for efficient 5-point harnessing and begs to go “down to highway.”

It might be because Jack doesn’t actually do that much riding. His dad and I each do 70 miles a day, while Jack’s commute is the quarter-mile to my mother’s house. Because we’ve been busy painting and installing floors, we haven’t been taking many weekend drives – we’ve been cramming errands into lunch breaks or quick stops on the way home so that we don’t have to drive that 30 miles to the grocery on Saturdays.

So when we do buckle him in and head down to the highway, Jack is glad he gets to go, too. Even if it means six hours in the car, he treats it like a special occasion. And that makes it one.

We take snacks and toys – no DVDs yet – and look for good places to run around in small-town parks and squares. He doesn’t sleep any more often in the car than he does out of it – he stays awake watching for trucks, buses, cows, trees, red lights, and for his favorite letters to appear on roadside signs. When we’re out of the car and settling into a hotel, he enjoys adventures in unfamiliar furniture, kicks back with the remote, and falls asleep easily, whether he’s on a sheepskin on the floor or in the middle of a king-sized bed with us. At home, it’s all these shoes not those and this cup NOT THAT ONE . Cold but no ice;  strawberries with their stems pulled off, not cut; the banana half-unpeeled, never more. When we’re away, it’s all cool.

But it’s when we’re away that we need that flexibility most.

It’s so fortuitous it feels like a fairy gift – like Jack was blessed with a love for long car rides and out-of-town adaptability the way Sleeping Beauty inherited wit and beauty. I’m not saying it’s his best quality – he was also born without interest in putting nonfood objects into his mouth, which is a spectacular gift – but I’m pretty grateful.

I tried to keep that in mind at the wedding Saturday, when Jack wanted to play sneeze (for the second wedding in a row). And I’ll try to keep that in mind now, as I re-fold the three baskets of fresh laundry he just overturned onto the floor to bury himself in.

Does your child like to share, say hello, go to the doctor or lie still for diaper changes? Fairy gifts, anyone?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2010 4:10 am

    It really is the little things, isn’t it? This post makes me think of my parking fairy (or angel or boon), which miraculously has followed me to the big city — although she does take the occasional day off. 🙂

  2. May 4, 2010 4:48 am

    Wow – that IS a gift. My toddler was (and may still be) a poor traveler and we’ve had to resort to the DVD, but she at least eats well. And has pretty much slept through the night for us since she was 11 months. But we are avid travelers, so it would be nice if she is a little more cooperative.

  3. May 4, 2010 12:56 pm

    My kids always amaze me at how well they travel. I get all worked up and worried about traveling with them and then they do well. I hope this continue to be the case at the end of the month when we fly to CA.
    The one outstanding thing I notice with my oldest is his manners. He may not listen all that well, gets a little rough with his hands, and not so great at going to bed but he will say please, thank you, your welcome, bless you, and good morning, etc. without being prompted.

  4. May 4, 2010 2:38 pm

    My son is the same way. Antsy at dinner, at bedtime, in the middle of the night and well, pretty much EVERYWHERE except the car. I learned to do ALL my errands via drive-thru. Although I don’t think that he’s every ASKED to get in the car seat, but once he’s in, we are good to go.

    (PS. My son didn’t stop eating sand until about six months ago.)

  5. May 4, 2010 5:53 pm

    Five years in, my two get along. They really do. And it is absolutely a gift! They also are not picky eaters, thank goodness.

    Now, sleeping? No gifts there.

  6. May 4, 2010 7:02 pm

    I love the expression “fairy gift.” I also love the way you describe Jack’s love of car trips. (He would have liked to be with us on Sunday, I think. We were stuck in traffic, but, fortuitously, there were loads of construction vehicles out the window for my boys to check out.)

    I think the same fairy kissed both of my boys with the gift of sleep. Picky-eating, stranger-anxious, toddlery-temperamental, but good sleepers both. Thank goodness for these fairy gifts.

  7. May 4, 2010 8:39 pm

    I meant that in reply to Kristen’s comment, but why not? Thank goodness for the tractor fairy in general!

    And what is it with half-peeled bananas? My daughter is the same way. Luckily, with her, the pacifier fairy skipped our house and she was never interested in one, though goodness knows I tried. My son? A pacifier addict. The laughing fairy kissed him, too. That kid’s laugh will crack you up no matter how cranky you are. He even cracks himself up. =>

    Love the picture of your sweet little man.

  8. May 4, 2010 11:18 pm

    This is so very interesting and I admit completely foreign to me. Neither of my children travel well. My oldest literally screamed every time he was strapped into his car seat as a young baby. I spent many a road trip (since we were so far from everyone) parked on the side of the road trying to soothe him. It was awful. So your story amazes me. It doesn’t stop us, we like to travel so we persevere, but I am quite jealous.

  9. May 5, 2010 12:49 am

    My son also travels pretty well, although he hasn’t done anything near the level of travel your Jack has done. Kids are amazing in that way, though. We moved cross-country just after he turned a year old, and it was SO much easier on him than it was on me or my husband. Being in an empty house waiting for our furniture was a grand adventure to him, whereas it was a huge source of stress for us. I guess the thing to take away is that kids can handle a lot more than we give them credit for, and we shouldn’t let our worries about how they’ll handle travel, moves, etc, hold us back, because they’ll always find the good in those things.

    • May 7, 2010 10:36 pm

      Jamie, I think that’s so true. I know all kids aren’t all kinds of adaptable, but they really do come with plenty of elastic. We’re just afraid to stretch it sometimes.

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