Raising Mary: Are road trips part of your family’s life?

My longest road trip was
from southern Ontario to my
childhood home in Newfoundland –
28 hours in a car, plus eight on an
ocean ferry.

My husband and I also fondly
remember our drive along the
gorgeous coast of Ireland when
we were first married.

We have passed on our love
of road trips to Mary, seven, and
Adelaide, five, with our annual
trek to Myrtle Beach, South
Carolina. It’s 15 hours each way.
We’ve done it seven times.

The first time took 24 hours over
two days, because we had to make
several 30-minute stops so I could
breastfeed Mary. Now, we press on
and do it in one day. As veterans of
the drive, we’ve learned a few tips
along the way.

First, we pack the car and bathe
the kids the night before, then put
them to bed in comfortable clothes
rather than pyjamas, so they don’t
need to get dressed in the morning.
We get up before them and then
once we’re ready, we wake the kids,
get them to the washroom and
plop them into the car where they
fall back to sleep. We’re on our way
before the sun comes up.

We pack food, too. The girls eat
breakfast in their car seats – dry
cereal and banana with juice boxes.
We eat sandwiches at a pretty rest
stop in Pennsylvania, so we don’t
need a restaurant until supper.
Healthy snacks like grapes, cheese
and yogurt last most of the day in
a small cooler; we bring nonperishable
snacks, too.

We also plan washroom breaks.
The kids have to try, even if they
think they don’t need to. (They
almost always do.) Be sure to plan
these stops where you can get
decent coffee.

While we survived as kids
without digital entertainment,
we do allow our kids to watch lots
of movies on the portable DVD
player, which only comes out for
road trips. Headphones for the
kids preserve our sanity and allow
us to talk and listen to our own
music. We bring books and some
small toys, too.

Movies aside, we do draw our
kids’ attention to the world outside
as it goes vrooming by.

Even the most prepared trips
will have a mishap. Such as the
time Mary vomited all over in the
middle of a Washington, D.C. traffic
jam. Or the time we ran out of gas.
So much for planning.

Expert Advice ~ Family therapist, Sara Dimerman says:

Rather than looking down the road towards a fi nal destination, think of
your trip as a circle of experiences with no one destination but a round
trip punctuated by wonderful stops along a special journey. Having
said this, that there may be lengthy periods of time to fi ll between those
stops – times that you’d prefer the kids fi ll with something other than
electronic, mind-melting gadgets. Finding balance is key. It’s okay to get
some quiet time when everyone is plugged into their virtual worlds, but
it’s also important to take time away from this to play some old-fashioned
games or chat about the changing landscapes. Consider how seldom
you have your family all together in one spot and realize this as a unique
opportunity to really enjoy one another’s company along the way.

Tracy Cooper is a stay-at-home mother of Mary, 7, and Adelaide, 4.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2013.

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Tracy Cooper is a writer, editor and fact-checker in the Toronto area. Reading a book or newspaper with a hot cup of tea is her favourite thing to do — next to binge-watching television shows with her hubby, hanging out with her two girls, and walking her Labrador Retriever. By the way, the daughter you read about in 'Mommy Diaries' is now a teenager!

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