Not for the first time, we’re handing the blog over to Martyn, one of the Mamas & Papas team, to share his insights on parenting. This time; dealing with kids and car journeys. Not for the squeamish.
The Dad Diary – Road to Hell by Martyn Knight
Family holidays are never easy; juggling the needs of your kids whilst at the same time, trying to grab some semblance of relaxation for yourself and your partner. This was the worry facing me and my wife as we set out on our first holiday abroad in a few years. We decided to take Lily (7) and her twin sisters, Poppy and Daisy (2), to France for 10 days – along with both sets of grandparents.
We knew it was a risk but we hoped the opportunity to meet Pluto and Goofy in person would keep the girls subdued, and as for the adults, well, France is known for its wine, bread and cheese.
Imagine our surprise then, when the holiday went without a hitch. There were the usual family disagreements and the odd sulk, but generally it proved to be the idyllic holiday we hoped for. That is, until the drive back.
If you’re a parent you’ll know how hard it is to keep your children entertained – with MTV and News24 zapping us of our attention span, our children find it even harder to stay focussed. Couple that with a 9 hour trip when everyone is a little tired and worn out; and you have a recipe for disaster. If not Snakes on a Plane, then Kids in a Renault Mégane.
And so we set off, me and the family in one car, my parents and the in-laws in another. A convoy of Knights and co.
Things started off promisingly, an hour into the journey and there were no real problems but suddenly, like an asteroid, it struck. Poppy, having been filled up on the remaining contents of our chalet’s fridge (you can’t take it with you after all) decided now would be a good time to be sick.
I never thought I’d miss the days when babies would dribble sick at various intervals. It was constantly a source of fear – you always knew it was coming, like a vomit-y form of water torture. But at least that sick was easily wiped up with a cloth or bib. Not this time. Poppy decided to forgo the slight trickle in favour of a full on, no-holds-barred, emptying of her insides. It was like watching the Exorcist in 3D (with added Smellovision).
We pulled over and did what we could but then, despite what experts say, lighting does strike twice – we were out of baby wipes. NEVER be out of baby wipes – rule one of parenting. There we were, at the side of the road in the French countryside desperately trying to mop up goop with nothing but a tea towel. We tried buying some wet wipes from a nearby petrol station but my GCSE French never extended that far. You can scream ‘serviette humide’ all you like but it does nothing.
Eventually we cleared the mess and set off again, having fumigated the car with antiperspirant and one of those pine tree air fresheners. Despite Lily’s protests to go in the other car, she was stuck with us. If we had to endure Poppy’s vomit fumes, then we were taking her with us.
It was a difficult journey to say the least. With my dad in front – how his driving skills didn’t result in being picked up by the local authorities, I’ll never know – and the kids in the back listening to endless repeats of Ben and Holly on two separate iPads. We initially thought it would be good to strap the devices to the backs of our headrests for ample viewing, what we didn’t anticipate was the dull monotony of having Ben’s irritating elf horn blasted in our ears every five minutes, in stereo.
Eventually we boarded the ferry – nothing soothes a poorly tummy like the repetitive churning of the English Channel. Then there’s the food; barely edible, barely legal, all with the potential to create another stomach outburst. It was a tense hour, not unlike pogo-ing through a minefield. Eventually we landed on solid ground. I now understand why the Pope kisses the floor every time he arrives somewhere. If Dover had better levels of road hygiene I would have considered it.
Then it was just the small matter of a five hour car drive back home, longer if you factor in every toilet stop and service station. Not to mention my father’s erratic driving. There’s no greater pleasure than finally breaking free from a difficult convoy. Those last few miles were made all the better for not being accompanied by my dad’s constant breaking and tailgating.
Finally we made it home, sick-smelling car and all. It was an eventful trip and very hard work. In fact it was that stressful, we needed a holiday to recuperate.
If you’re thinking of a long car journey with a young family, maybe bear these tips in mind, unlike us.
- Don’t force feed your child copious amounts of croissants and cheeses before setting off
- Make sure you have all your entertainment devices fully charged with accompanying headphones
- ALWAYS bring baby wipes. ALWAYS
- Never drive at the back of a family convoy
- Bring plenty of water and sweets (for you, not the kids!)
- And never think a French person will understand the universal hand gesture for baby wipe