Friday, October 14, 2011

Road Trip

People who keep track of such things tell us that the most accident-prone drivers are teenagers. But I’m not so sure. I get that it is difficult to concentrate on driving when one is simultaneously texting, changing songs on an MP3 player, fixing make-up, and checking a Facebook feed. I don’t see, however, that this level of distraction is any different than what the average parent of a toddler faces on any car trip longer than the driveway.

I try to prepare for long car tips by making my toddler as comfortable as possible. I give him a small bag of cheesy goldfish, and I present him with a pile of his favorite books. Alert and experienced parents are already shaking their heads, knowing that such efforts are in vain.

I learned this the hard way once on a trip across the Midwest with my toddler. Before leaving, I made sure he was properly nestled among Bernstein Bear books, with a full sippy cup and a bowl of raisins at his side. He even had his favorite blanket. My plan was virtually flawless. We were leaving just before nightfall, giving him a short amount of time to brush up on the virtues of familial love taught by the Bernstein Bears before drifting to sleep with a full belly and a comfortable blanket while I drove four hours through the peaceful darkness.

It was three minutes before the first raisin ricocheted off the windshield. Not wanting to disrupt the calm that was surely forthcoming, I turned briefly and gave him a mild frown. Turning my attention back to driving, I had just enough time to nudge the car back across the center line before The Bernstein Bears Love Their Neighbors plopped beside me, knocking over my Mountain Dew and spilling my bag of skittles.

Unfazed, I turned again, this time to deliver a threat. I stopped short of promising to take his books and food away, thinking this would only guarantee that he would not drop into a dreamy slumber quite as quickly.

As I refocused on the road, planting my feet firmly on the brakes to avoid developing a short-term relationship with the driver ahead, I realized almost immediately that I should have considered disarmament. A brief barrage of paperback children’s books was followed by an invasion of Croc-wielding feet slamming into the back of my seat.

With one hand replacing the lid on my soda and the other hand plucking a grape skittle off the floor, I carefully navigated a lane change with my knees while admonishing my son in the rear view mirror.

I eased into my new lane, only to be cut off by a teenage girl lost in conversation on her cell phone. Watch the road, kid, I muttered under my breath. 

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