Sunday, December 23, 2012

The one where we took a road trip and lived to tell

As anyone who has been recently reading this blog or following me Twitter knows, I have been somewhat nervous at the idea of spending eight hours on the road with the kids. The longest road trip we have attempted with them before this has been a three hour drive from Bombay to Murud and that was a couple of years ago.

I planned a list of activities to keep them busy, kept a bag of toys in the car and planned for every worst case scenario (garbage bags, vomit bags, change of clothes, wet wipes, tissues, kitchen roll to name a few).

The start was not terribly auspicious. We got a late start and left almost an hour later than we had planned to (putting paid to our hopes that the kids would get back to sleep once we started driving). Tarana was terribly whiny at having been woken up at 5:45. And while backing out the car, I knocked over a flowerpot.

However, the rest of the journey was so smooth that I am still pinching myself, wondering if today has just been a dream and I will wake up to find the drive still ahead of us.

For starters, it is a pretty fantastic highway. I was able to clock really good speeds thanks to the wide and smooth road which was, barring a few exceptions, free of obstructions like cattle and potholes. I had a fantastic time driving and Jai commented that we should do this more often since I was much less cantankerous than I am when we fly with the kids.

Which brings me to the kids themselves. They were fan-freaking-tastic and exceeded my expectations on every aspect. There were absolutely no accidents - no car sickness, no potty training disasters, and only relatively minor food spillages. There was just one meltdown, which was about six less than the number I had estimated, and that too was justified since Tarana choked on the water she was drinking when I slowed down suddenly.

I had planned to pack some junk food (crisps, cookies, etc) to up the novelty level of the trip, since they don't get to eat a lot of that stuff on a regular basis. But my health-conscious seven year old was having none of it. So what finally made it into our food basket was whole, peeled carrots, dried fruits and nuts, juice boxes and egg sandwiches. The carrots were a huge hit - healthy, tasty and completely non-messy - and between the four us, we managed to eat almost a kilo of carrots - I don't think I need to worry about out beta carotene intake for a while now!

Yesterday, I also had a bit of an epiphany with regards to lollipops - they are basically pacifiers for older kids. So I put in a secret stash of suckers. We didn't feel the need for them till we hit Bangalore traffic, the kids got restive and Tarana started looking somewhat green. We gave them the lollipops then and for quite a while, there was almost pin-drop silence in the backseat - in fact, Tarana still hadn't finished hers by the time we reached home!

They were also relatively low maintenance with regards to entertainment. In addition to keeping their mouths busy with a constant supply of food, we mostly got by with listening to (and singing along with) some Christmas carols and conversations about everything under the sun including how cotton is converted to clothes (he found a cotton plant on one of our al fresco bio breaks).

Despite my ambivalence about letting him read in a moving vehicle, he had pretty strong points of view to the contrary. When I had asked him to make a list of ways in which he would keep himself busy on the road, here is what he came up with:



So, I decided not to make an issue out of it - especially since reading in cars does not make him nauseous. He carried two Calvin & Hobbes comic books (his latest craze) with him and spent a couple of hours immersed in them. He then spent about an hour with the Google Maps app on my phone following the blue dot as it moved, telling us names of towns and other landmarks (crossings, lakes, bus stops, etc.) coming up ahead. Other than that, he was mostly okay to just talk or look outside the window.

Tarana slept for a short while but otherwise largely amused herself. She kept putting her cap and sunglasses on and taking them off. She delighted in kicking the seat in front and since she was seated behind the passenger seat, I left that for father and daughter to sort out for themselves, and generally chatting to us and herself. There were a few sibling skirmishes, but nothing that got out of control.

The clincher for me was the fact that the kids didn't just tolerate being on the road, they actually seemed to have enjoyed it. I see a lot more road trips in our future. Unless of course, this was just beginners' luck, in which case, back to airplanes it is!

In terms of planning future road trips, I think I would mostly do the same things that we did today. The one thing I would do differently would be to leave earlier so we that can have a couple of hours of relatively more peaceful driving while the kids sleep. I also plan to pick up window shades because the sun did bother them more than a little. 

12 comments:

  1. Touch wood to a great trip. It really is a rarity. However I too find the kids bearing up pretty well on road trips. We've done two 12 hour ones and they've held up. It's the trains that are the worstest ever.
    PS: A kg of carrots.. WOW!

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    1. I was shocked to discover that all the carrots were over too. I thought I would have to hand more than half over to the mother-in-law to make soup or something!

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  2. Ooh this sounds like it was such fun :). Better to overly worry and then have an unexpected good time I say ;). Have a fun time in Bangalore, I feel so bad that our times don't intersect.

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    1. One of my favourite quotes is - 'Don't tell me that worrying doesn't help. All the things I worry about never happen.'

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  3. Awesome! Kids exceed our expectations, esp'ly when you are least expecting them to!

    Loved the last item and the parentheses in his list :) And C&H? Get him this one as a Christmas gift perhaps?! - http://www.amazon.com/Calvin-Hobbes-Tenth-Anniversary-Book/dp/0836204387

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    1. Thanks for the book recommendation.

      Christmas gift already wrapped and waiting under the tree - the entire Fudge series by Judy Blume.

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    2. Kewl! I can imagine the beeg grin that will appear tomorrow!

      Blume is one author we have not read much. Only Freckle Juice and a couple more I think. We somehow end up mostly with Brit authors and miss out on the American ones. There is marked difference in style between the two sets - possibly why we tend to gravitate to the Brit ones, they are the ones we are used to. Hmm, food for thought (for me).

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    3. Our has been quite mixed. Lots of Enid Blyton and then quite a few American authors as well.

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    4. And weirdly we have been very picky with Blyton too, despite going to her hometown (Beaconsfield) in summer.

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  4. Good to see they enjoyed the road trip. And totally impressed by the snack list. Am taking down notes....

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  5. Awesome!!! Am so happy you enjoyed the drive!!!

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  6. Wonderful! Here's to amny more happy road trips:)

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