Getting small children prepped and ready to travel is like preparing to mobilize a small army – a very sticky, Pop Tart and granola bar fueled army. Except that armies are organized. And disciplined. And capable of following orders. OK fine, so army was a bit of a stretch. More like a gaggle.
A well oiled, cohesive unit they certainly are not. Hauling everyone down to Target may not be the same as shipping out for Afghanistan, but the logistics involved in moving this unruly bunch from point A to point B are equally impressive at times. At least that’s what I tell myself. Also, a stroll through a war zone sounds rather relaxing compared to the conflict erupting in my back seat over control of the DVD player. One is demanding to see Frozen for the 743rd time while Two refuses to budge on The Lego Movie. Three could potentially end the deadlock, however since her chair was flipped around, she’s just thrilled to be looking at anything that isn’t the back of a seat. The movie debate is almost never settled amicably, but it’s amazing how quickly a decision can be reached when threatened with the alternative – Mom’s music. Argument settled. Disaster averted. Let’s get this show on the road!
Wait, what? Just where exactly have we been all this time? Sorry. I forgot to mention that the aforementioned was taking place with all 4 wheels still planted firmly in the garage. I’ll back up a bit. How is it that all 3 children came to be securely fastened inside our people mover, ready to begin this journey? Prepare yourself. Such a feat is almost never accomplished without at least some yelling (me) and/or tears (them). OK, the tears are mine too. Shut up.
First order of business: shoes. You know, those things you put on your feet literally every time you leave the house? You wore them yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. You get the idea.
Me: “One and Two, find your shoes!”
With a groan, they muster a cursory glance of the area presently occupied by their tiny bodies before quickly giving up.
Kids: “We can’t find them!”
Me: “You just had them yesterday, what happened to them?”
Kids: “They’re lost!”
Here’s the thing about my kids – the closer an object is to them in time and space, the more disconnected they become from its whereabouts. That cool toy they saw at the store we visited on vacation 3 years ago? I’m still reminded at least weekly of its existence and the urgent need to return there so that they can acquire it. In case you were wondering, Two wore his green dinosaur shirt that day. And saw a chipmunk in the parking lot. The toy they were just playing with this morning? No idea. It might as well be in Narnia.
Anyway, we’re looking for shoes, which have inexplicably vanished. I walk in to survey the room.
Let me just take this opportunity to express how thankful I am that we don’t live in an area populated by large numbers of venomous snakes, or the local ER would be ordering anti-venom by the tanker truck just to keep my oblivious children alive. If those 4 shoes had been deadly serpents, I would certainly have entered to see One and Two lying lifeless on the floor, for at their feet were the very shoes which managed to evade their earlier search. At least we found them.
Next on the list: pack Mom’s purse full of diapers and wipes. Changing diapers in public is one of those necessary evils every parent must come to terms with. You may have personally resolved to never bomb the Oval Office in public, but I assure you, your children have no such convictions. If luck is on your side, they’ll save the major blowouts for home, but either way, you’ll be changing something in a less than ideal location – in a public restroom or in your crumb-filled car. It’s your choice. The public restroom, with it’s fold down changing table and broken strap, is a great place to practice your one-handed diaper changing technique while being silently judged by everyone who enters. If you go with the car, watch in amazement as your baby’s wet butt manages to attract every Goldfish, Teddy Graham, and Cheerio within a 3 ft. radius.
Don’t forget the snacks. Car travel carries with it the risk of a severe and potentially life-threatening condition known as Severe Rapid-onset passEnger Starvation Syndrome (StRESS). Those afflicted are most commonly minors under legal driving age. Symptoms include irritability, whining, and begging for food due to all prior forms of nourishment instantly leaving the body once entering the vehicle. No known quantity of food consumed prior to beginning a car trip has been shown to be sufficient in preventing StRESS. Large quantities of Teddy Grahams and juice within the vehicle will allow you to reach your destination while keeping symptoms of this serious disorder to a minimum.
Fourth, find everyone’s precious belongings. Ever been a half hour into a car ride when your preschooler realizes they forgot something? Hell hath no fury like a kid who’s forgotten their blanket, even on a 100 degree day.
The last order of business: strapping everyone into the car. This seemingly simple activity is fraught with peril. Three out of the four seasons don’t make this step any easier. Winter…you freeze. Spring…you get drenched. Summer…your kid’s legs get burned on metal buckles that have been known to reach 900 degrees in the sun. Those cute, chubby baby thighs are also a problem. Pinch one of those while strapping in, and you’ll be needing earplugs for the trip too.
We’re finally ready to go! The garage door is up, and the car is rolling backwards. Unfortunately, everyone’s shoes and socks are already scattered about the car, the kids have resumed screaming about which movie they’ll watch, teddies are being tipped onto the ground, and One is yelling about her Elsa doll she forgot inside. It’s not pretty, but that, my friends, is how it’s done!