Sunday, June 01, 2008

Successful Venture

Paul was sick this weekend, so he stayed home while I took the girls to Indianapolis for a wedding. A trip! Of over 400 miles! Alone with a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old! (My parents and youngest sister were waiting at the hotel to help care for the girls during the weekend, but I did the drive and the overnight portions alone, so let's not rain on my parade, eh?)

Other people do this all the time, of course, but it was a first for me and I'm (clearly) inordinately proud of myself. Some secrets to my success:
  1. Be uncomfortable with public bathrooms. This will train your 4-year-old to want to avoid trips to the bathroom with you if possible. (I offer roadside stops with the portable potty seat as an alternative when emergencies arise.) It turns out that Ellie can easily last 5 hours in the car with no stops.
  2. Have flexible children. My two spend so much time squirming around, legs over head, etc. that there's no worry about deep vein thrombosis from sitting too long.
  3. Keep snacks and drinks handy, and children within reaching distance, if possible. (But out of reaching distance of each other, to limit fighting.)
  4. Have a vehicle with easily accessible DVD system installed. Today, the girls watched Monsters, Inc., Toy Story, and part of The Lion King. They also listened to their beloved Ralph, played with dolls and MagnaDoodles, and took brief naps.
  5. Offer occasional stops at parks to play, but try to schedule these immediately prior to aforementioned brief naps so that you don't have to follow through on the offers right away, ticking away a few more precious miles before being forced to pull off the interstate.

But, seriously, how's a single parent supposed to do it, otherwise? At what age is is acceptable to leave children alone in a car, however briefly? (Let's assume the car's running, unlocked, with A/C on.) Until that point, do you wake up both kids and drag them into a public bathroom whenever you need a pit stop? The horrors. Fortunately, Ellie inherited her super bladder from me, so despite all my coffee and milkshake consumption, I did just fine for 4+ hours myself. This time.

When I'm driving I don't like to stop very often. I learned this from my dad, but also from my daughters. Now that we have a DVD player, Ellie loves long car trips (her movie watching at home is limited and only on weekends or when I deem her sufficiently sick). But Ada? She's one and loves to RUN and PLAY. Sitting all day is not her cup of tea, though she's willing to do it when necessary. But putting her back into the car after a stop? The horrors. How can a small child make her body as stiff as a plank? This must be one of life's little mysteries.


Amanda said...

My girl loves public bathrooms. She has since she was little. I have a thing against using them. But she will squeeze out a little just to go to one. **shaking head in disgust** DVD is awesome at that age. We routinely made the 4 hour trip to my parents with the DVD playing. We've gotten to the age that we can skip the DVD though we do have portable game players (leapster & DS). I don't think I could ever leave my kids in the car alone especially with the car running and unlocked. The world just isn't a safe enough place. Glad you made it on your trip safely.

Tracey said...

Do you have the built in DVD player, or a portable one? We need to get another portable one for our summer trip to Chicago, but I can't make up my mind which to buy.

I wish that I had a bladder like yours. Unfortunately I pee every hour on the hour most of the time, but that's largely due to huge amounts of beverages I consume. :)

Sarahlynn said...

Amanda, Ellie loves public bathrooms, too, just not with me. During brunch at First Watch, she often has to go at least twice . . . with her daddy. (If I stand up to take her, she suddenly doesn't have to go anymore.)

Tracey, we have both. We had a portable (great for plane rides and other times a young child must stay still and quiet!) and then we got the van, which came with the entertainment system.

So what do you do with both kids when you need to pee or buy a bottle of water? Do they both have to come into the stall with you?

A question for all - what about a car running but doors LOCKED? (If I bring a second set of keys along.)

For example: this weekend I was packing up the hotel room and then loading up the car. Where are the kids safest? IMO, strapped into their car seats while I run up and down stairs. (Especially since they were unpacking as quickly as I could pack when they were upstairs with me.) But . . . what if my mom wasn't there to hang out in the van with them?

And what about after that, when I dropped off something for the bride and groom at their hotel? Should I have unloaded both girls and carried them inside for 60 seconds, then fought them back into their 5-point-safety harnesses afterwards?


Kristi said...

Leaving kids in cars is the trickiest part of dealing with kids & errands of any kind, I think. I don't like to do it. My husband doesn't mind (he can leave his car running with the doors locked, though, because his key can separate from the remote part...I can't). I almost always have a stroller in my trunk that I can put Trystan in, and Char can follow directions well enough. I've also just sat Trystan down on the floor, in a handicapped stall, and prayed that he wouldn't crawl away while I peed (and washed his hands when I was done). Tables and high chairs in restaurants probably have as much bacteria, etc, as the far corner of a restroom does (heck, an out-of-the-way corner probably has more dust than germs)

I've actually gone to the bathroom with both kids as bitty babies strapped into the front carrier on my chest. Trystan only rides in the one-shoulder sling version now when he's tired, and he's a little big to juggle like that, which brings me back to the stroller suggestion.

Worst case, I can (and have) picked both kids up at the same time and carried them (usually with at least one kicking and screaming in whatever tantrum necessitated the hasty departure)...I dread the day when that's no longer possible.

Amanda said...

My kids come into the stall with me. Fortunately I have issues with public restrooms so I haven't had to put my 7 year old son through too much trauma. Actually with them older I will let them stand outside the actual toilet but still in the restroom as long as they are both there, but since little boys get strange looks, they usually get dragged in. You should try on a bathing suit with two kids in the changing room with you. Yup, did that last week. Thank, God, we learn to change without taking off too much as young girls. Besides he was so embassassed he was covering his eyes and looking at the wall on his own with no prompting. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was. With an older child, I feel better leaving my kids in the room without me more than the car. I left them alone once in Sheffield watching Sponge Bob while I drove to the train station to pick up Phil. They were in the same position when I got home. The older they get the more responsibility they can handle.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Wow, I'm so impressed! I wouldn't take my kids on a weekend trip 400 miles away for love or money. I'll admit it, I'm chicken like that.

Sarahlynn said...

It's all about the car seats and DVD player. And the snacks. Sigh.

Then again, when I was a kid, we just spread sleeping bags over suitcases in the back of the van and laid around until we came to urban areas. So maybe my kids will survive my horrible parenting, after all.