Dads need to drive, not just because they are control freaks on the road, but because they just can’t do everything else properly (like moms do.)
Take, for example, our recent trip home from Christmas in North Carolina: nine hours in a minivan with a one-year-old, a three- year-old, a six-year-old, a seven-year-old and a LOT of presents.
We attempted something we usually try to avoid: driving during the day when the kids are awake.
I would’ve saved myself a lot of frustration and yelling if I had just squeezed my butt in the back between the booster seats from the very beginning. Unfortunately, though, I gained ten pounds over Christmas and my butt wasn’t squeezing in anywhere.
So we started off with Dad in the driver’s seat (where he belongs) and me in the passenger seat, surrounded by toys, drinks with ill-fitting lids, candy wrappers, books, coats, pillows and who knows what else. Dad paid no attention to the kids. His eyes were on the road. He was focused. He was a driving machine.
Of course, we hadn’t made it out of the driveway yet.
Less than 20 minutes into the trip, the children ended up “needing things,” as children often do. Things like having their dolls’ hair untangled, their pencils sharpened, their hands “unstickied,” their Etch-a-Sketches repaired, extra straws for their juice boxes, the radio turned up, the radio turned down, the radio turned off, the heat turned on, the heat turned off, the crackers picked up off the floor, a blanket, a fan, a mint, some gum…. I, of course, ended up in a weird sideways half-sitting, half-reaching behind me position.
After an hour or so, my leg cramped up and I had to stick my feet up on the dash. Dad, oblivious to his needy children, changed lanes and pretended that he was a NASCAR driver.
Once I managed to contort myself into a torture position with my head twisted around at an unnatural angle, I proceeded to fill the enviable role of Entertainer Extraordinaire!
I can only read so many stories and play so many games of I Spy. Let’s face it: when you're in the car, the answer for something green is always grass. My Activity Bag contains a finite amount of activities. A movie on a laptop would come in handy, but unfortunately I’m against them (if I suffered through a childhood of boring car rides, my kids can too.)
“Okay! Who wants to play Stare Out the Window with Your Mouth Closed? Anyone?”
Snacks help too, but I’ve found that the best thing to do is suggest that they snuggle in with their “car pillow” and rest their eyes for a few minutes. Since they’ve been bored out of their gourds for the past 100 miles, they usually fall for it. It seems to work better than the version Dad uses when he’s not driving, which is “SHUT IT AND GO TO SLEEP!”
Dads hate stopping to rest, stretch legs, change diapers, eat, or pee. Moms know that the two keys to ensuring a pleasant trip are dry butts and pacing yourself. No one wants to sit in a wet diaper or be stuffed into a car seat for hours on end. But you can forget about stopping by museums, historical sites or tourist traps with Dads. Dads are on a schedule. Dads need to “beat their best time.”
No matter what, it’s going to be a pain in the butt. You’re going to hear “Mommy” a thousand times. People are going to get smacked and kicked (and possibly poked in the eye with crayons) by their siblings. Dads are going to turn on their selective hearing and ignore everyone, but it's just as well. They could never contort, entertain or mollycoddle the way that moms can anyway.
Nothing is going to go the way you planned it and you are going to have to stop at a dirty bathroom somewhere, so you might as well just deal with it. Keep a fake smile on your face and lower your voice. Even though the Ohio River may look inviting as Dad roars over it at 78 miles an hour, remember that the trip WILL end.