For my family, the Terrible Twos came early. My daughter won’t turn two until mid-December, but being genetically predisposed to ambition and forward-thinking, she mastered the art of being a Terrible Two several months before her second birthday. Thus, it was with trepidation that I agreed to travel down Interstate 5 through the great Central Valley, through the quagmire that is L.A., from my home in Sacramento to my mom’s house in San Diego for Thanksgiving. I asked her if it was absolutely necessary to bring the kids and she said that if I expect to stay in the will, I should bring her grandchildren to see her. Now that I have arrived back at home with at least some of my sanity left, I offer you some holiday travel tips.
I’ll get the easy one out of the way first. For my five-year old son, there is only one thing we need: the portable DVD player. This is the greatest invention of our time, eclipsing the iPad or even the invisibility cloak. Plug him in, give him a stack of DVDs to choose from and he’s good to go. Having taken many long distance road trips as kids, my wife and I wonder how our relationships with our siblings would be different today if the portable DVD player existed 30 years ago.
Now the hard part: the two-year-old. If you must embark on a road trip as I did this Thanksgiving and you are compelled to take your toddler along for the ride, I offer these tips:
1. Offer to drive. If you are driving, you get out of having turn to the back seat, pick up the sippy cup or her lost teddy bear, prevent the kids from hitting each other, etc. If you are the only adult in the car and you can’t pick up the sippy cup while driving, you might want to go directly to Tip #4.
2. Get some non-lame kids’ music. Now, this is a tough one, but there is some children’s music out there that doesn’t make you want to hurt yourself, like Raffi, Barney, or the Wiggles. The least lame children’s album I have come across is called Snacktime by the Barenaked Ladies. This album has the catchy tunes that the kids like, along with the Barenaked Ladies’ trademark sarcastic wit that keeps the adults engaged. Another non-lame children’s album is The Best of the Land of Nod Store Music, Volume 2, which features songs by Cake and a great punk rock take on an old Schoolhouse Rock jingle called Unpack Your Adjectives by the Mister T Experience.
3. Plentiful snacks. While I never go on a road trip of more than 50 miles without a box of Chicken in a Biskits, for the kids the go-to snack is the Goldfish. Handfuls and handfuls of Goldfish can buy you a few precious minutes of silence on the freeway. The good folks at Pepperidge Farm probably had no idea that they had literally struck gold when they introduced the Goldfish in 1962. If your kids have an iPad with them in the car (don’t they all nowadays?), they can even play Goldfish-themed games at this website: www.goldfishfun.com.
4. Tolerate the crying. Sometimes, there is just nothing you can do. She screams for the sippy cup, you hand it to her and she throws it down with another scream. She wants the Goldfish, she doesn’t want the Goldfish. She’s hot so you roll down the window. She’s cold so you roll it up. At some point you just have to give up and let her cry. If you can endure the screaming cry of a two-year-old you can do almost anything. The next presentation you have to give to the bosses at work will seem like a cakewalk.
As a postscript, I have to admit to not following my own advice on our most recent road trip. I actually let my wife drive, we listened to the Wiggles, ran out of snacks and lost our minds with the crying. Hopefully you will do better than we did. Needless to say, within an hour of arriving back home I was online buying airplane tickets to our next destination: Christmas in Washington State.