Driving Miss Crazy!

I'm going to do the same thing to his car one day...

I remember the day I purchased my first new car. There it was, a shiny brand new purple Chevy Cavalier. It was exactly what I had always wanted: small, clean, fun, and inexpensive. I played my favorite music while I drove the highway between my parents’ home and the university I was attending. Driving that car gave me great pleasure. Little did I know that, in my near future, a simple car ride would turn into a mind-boggling, brain melting, heart palpitating moment of pure stress. What’s the difference between those car rides from my youth and the ones I have now? Well, besides the fact that it takes more money to pump a gallon of gas than it does to get your pet spayed and neutered, I now have the pleasure of traveling with a virtual circus troupe. Oh yeah, add a cranky toddler, manic kindergartener, an overly sensitive preteen and a hormonal teenager, stir, throw in a husband who’s inside voice is the same decibel as his outside voice and sprinkle a dash of mommy’s short fuse temperament and there you have it! A montage of minivan madness cruising down the road in a city near you.

Now I admit, I probably should have a handle on taking a quick jaunt with the family by now. But with each new child comes new issues that need to be overcome. Every time I think I have a handle on how to calm the little ones for a quick trip to church or school, I hit a snag. But with time, I have come up with some tricks of the trade that have helped ease some of the pain. If you are having the same issue, fear not! Despite the odds being stacked against you, there are some things you can do to make your short trips around town more bearable. Check out this top ten list for some ideas. And remember, this list applies to short rides only. We will discuss long car rides at a later date. That’s an advanced lesson. You’ve got to crawl before you walk!


1. BE CHOOSY. Only take kids where they HAVE to go. That doesn’t mean leave the little ones at home by themselves or anything silly like that. But if you have some grocery shopping to do then by all means, try to leave the children at home with their other parent, an aunt or uncle, grandparent, responsible teen, SOMEONE because grocery shopping is hard enough without tacking on a stressful car ride to the store and back.

2  GET YOUR GAS ON. Make sure you have at LEAST a ¼ tank of gas before you strap your little one in. Why? Because kids do not like being separated from their parent. If you have to stop for gas, you could unleash a whole chorus of ear busting screams that will be sure to deliver the one two punch of giving you a splitting headache and causing other well-meaning citizens to think you suck as a parent. Even if you pay at the pump, your baby is not going to be happy.

3. BE PREPARED! Are there any scouts in the house? Do NOT put your children in a vehicle that isn’t warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Get that vehicle ready so that when you put junior inside, he will be comfortable and happy. At least for the time being.

4. HAVE A SNACK READY. If you are picking children up from childcare after a long day of work, they will be hungry. And trying to calmly explain to them that they will eat when they get home doesn’t work. For one, they are kids and they have no concept of time. And for two, children do not have any patience so grab a few crackers and a juice box and store them inside your vehicle so that you will be ready.

5. LEAVE EARLY! I’m telling you now. Most of the things that go wrong with our car rides start in the driveway. My children have vomited, slammed hands, fallen, pooped their pants, peed their pants, and have had medical emergencies, all in the car and all while we are still in the driveway. The point is, give yourself some wiggle room so that when something goes wrong, you may still be on time.

6. DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT. For some reason, whenever I looked at my young children in the rear view mirror, they had a major meltdown. Maybe it’s because they are strapped into their car seats like an inmate to another strappy chair. I don’t know but for some reason the inability to flail about seems to irk them and making eye contact is just the catalyst they need to unleash the beast.

7. ESTABLISH RULES AHEAD OF TIME! My older children have assigned days that they are allowed to sit in the front or to pick which seat they want to ride in if the front passenger seat is unavailable. occasionally there may still be strife but all you have to say is “Who’s day is it?” and give them THE LOOK and the problem is usually solved. Oh, and failure to put on a seatbelt or touching my radio is ground for immediate loss of front seat privileges.

8. PLAY MUSIC. Having a little fun along the way may help distract the little ones from all that is wrong with their world. And singing along will only enhance the moment.

9. STAY AWAY FROM USING A TV FOR SHORT TRIPS! Have you ever seen a toddler go berserk because you had to cut off his favorite TV show? If your car ride is not going to outlast your child’s favorite episode of whatever it is they love watching then save yourself the headache and don’t even bother.

10. BE FLEXIBLE! There is no point in thinking the world will end if you don’t get around to completing everything on your list. Be prepared to abort the mission at any given moment and try again later or the next day. Believe me, sometimes letting it all go is the best way to keep your sanity.

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