Step 1: Make an excellent plan
You will do everything within your power to ensure that the conditions for this journey are to everyone’s exact specifications – you will factor in when who has had what bottle, whether snack time has taken place and if the journey coincides with nap time. Both children will have a full tummy, a clean nappy, be the exact temperature they need to be, have their most loved comforters and be suitably tired for a car-seat snooze.
You will feel optimistic about this journey until approximately 2.3 miles away from your house, when the toddler demands a banana.
Step 2: Negotiation
The bloody toddler wants a bloody banana. There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. Firstly, he just had a star shaped ham sandwich, a babybel, some sort of puff that stained his entire face orange, a petit filou and left a perfectly good half-eaten flapjack.
Secondly, I don’t have any bloody bananas. I wasn’t aware I was raising a hairless monkey. If you want rice cakes, I am your girl, if not – forget it.
And finally, if I did have a banana (which I don’t) I wouldn’t give it to you. Do you think I am crazy? I don’t want to find squashed up, blackened banana residue 3 hours later when we reach our destination the other side of the M4.
Step 3: They lull you into a false sense of security
Banana-Gate is over, everything goes quiet, you look in the mirror to see every mother’s dream – both children asleep. You go from nought to smug bastard in a matter of seconds and whisper to your husband “they are both asleep!” *grin* You might even try to take a picture of this serene landscape taking place in the back of your car. If you are a really smug bastard you and your husband might even high five. But you will get what is coming to you…
Step 4: The baby hates you
or his car seat. We will never know which. But he just starts crying. And not a slow burning, unsettled cry – a piercing, harrowing cry that makes you wonder what the toddler has done to him, except the toddler is asleep. (For now!) You contort yourself out of your seat to try to place a dummy in the screaming child’s mouth or hold it’s hand or stroke it’s face, but the crying continues. You start to remember the article you read about Crying It Out and decide the baby’s cortisol levels must be through the roof and you must stop the car NOW, RIGHT NOW, maybe even on the hard shoulder, before you cause lasting psychological damage or he spontaneously combusts right there in his Maxi-Cosi.
Step 5: The unscheduled stop
You pull in to the next service station to tend to the crying baby. The toddler wakes up and remembers he wants a banana. You still don’t have a banana. Milk is administered, nappy changes, singing of Twinkle Twinkle little star, peace is restored and you hit the road, only to find they both nod off again and you are a bloody good parent and this definitely is not stressful at all.
Step 6: The traffic hates you
It is the law that a baby and toddler will only sleep when in motion. The second the car slows down to less than 10 miles an hour, they will wake up to demand an explanation. Your husband will be tempted to jump red lights just to keep those wheels moving. (He won’t though, don’t worry.) Soon, the vision of doom presents itself, a traffic jam. You and your partner take a sharp in-take of breath as you know this can only bring misery upon your Ford Focus and all who sail within her. You coast for as long as possible trying to keep a distance from the end of the jam and the car still in motion, but alas, you have to stop.
They both wake up and they are NOT happy about it.
Step 7: Pull out all the stops
From here on in the rest of the journey is blur. There will be singing, asking the toddler pointless questions, (“can you see any cars, Ted?” Of course he bloody can, it’s a motorway), BBC iPlayer on your phone, hand holding, rice cake giving, banana promising and watching the SatNav like a hawk as the minutes count down to your arrival.
Step 8: Final destination
You leap out of the car to rescue the baby from head-hugger hell and to free your rabid toddler who is now foaming at the mouth. You realise it was all worth it when you are greeted by friends and family who are pleased to see you, but decide you will stay there forever or until teleportation is a viable transportation option.