Sunday, February 6, 2011

Road Trip

Back to all the words. This blog is where I keep track of stories as they are published, so apologies if you're tired of all the wacky. This piece was written for the Summer issue of Early Years Magazine. And p.s:- Tania, is this your wee-bath story? I wrote this column a while ago, and I can't remember, but it made me laugh for days. And now it is immortal.

Close your eyes, readers. Come with me on a little trip back in time. A faraway time, deep in your distant past. A time BC: before children. And now, in that misty memory, imagine you are taking a road trip. The guitar is there, the chocolate, the bottle of port, the crossword. Thick books and driving CD’s are piled high. Ribbons of coast road unravel before you as you cruise along, minds blissfully empty, needing only to stop at an occasional farm-shop for eggs and honey, or a country cafĂ© for a leisurely latte.

Wake up, parents! Those days are over. Wake up now! Wake up with a shock, like a person with kids. Wake up like my friend who recently relaxed into a warm bath to have a potty full of wee poured over her head.

Once upon a time, in our lazy, hazy pre-baby years, Keith and I would borrow my parent’s campervan as often as we could convince them to lend it. We’d load up, take off up the highway and shed our worries as we camped in various National Parks across New South Wales.

Some years later, life has changed. I’m preparing for a seven hour drive with our two kids in tow, and the packing is a whole different kettle of fish fingers. The CD’s are less of your indie-folk genre, and more of your Hooley Dooley’s (and you know you’re listening to too much children’s music when you and your partner are singing along to ‘I’m A Slug’, and agreeing ‘you know, they’re really very talented.’)

Road snacks don’t include chocolate peanuts or ginger beer. Snacks, these days, are boxes of dried fruit, cheese and crackers, sliced apples; carefully prepped for excitement of eating and separated into containers to give maximum time and interest. There are emergency wafers and caramels for the inevitable moments of madness. Surprise toys. Mapped-out stops at parks for running races, Duck, Duck, Goose, and other desperate attempts to tire out the tiny travellers.

I’m working hopeful, this trip, with a fully stocked Fun Bag. It took me hours and it contains a range of fiddly activities, intended to keep us twenty minutes ahead of the meltdown curve. We travel with a Rewards Chart complete with fairy stamp. We have lolly snakes for every hour of happy behaviour. We have a Dictaphone for Ivy to record and play back her own stories on. Trading on the vanity of the pre-schooler, we have little photo books featuring Ivy and Ted engaged in different activities, so they can gaze lovingly at themselves for a very long time. I know it sounds like the work of an obsessive mother, perhaps one in need of anxiety medication, but really, it’s just what I’ve been driven to after three years of listening to Ivy lose it, loudly and theatrically, in the car. Once she spent ten minutes on the freeway straining desperately against her car-seat and shouting ‘Undo me! I can’t undo me! But I have to get ooooooouuuuut!’

In the end, we make it, without having had any meltdowns. It’s been OK. At times, it’s even been fun. But it’s taken hours of preparation and a constant vigilance on the mood of the back seat to get us there in that state. And yet, somehow, for the last few hours, Keith and I indulged in a dreamy conversation about taking a year out to drive the whole family around the country. I’m sure that would turn out OK too, but I may rethink the anxiety medication in that Fun Bag.


  1. I love the way you write. So colourful. And I love the preparation involved. Great story.

  2. Hello this is my first visit to your blog and what a post to introduce me to you. Loved it! I adore long road trips. It's kind of a sick game of mine, to see if I can entertain the young miss in the back the entire way.

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Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.