The boys are no strangers to a road trip, whether it be a “quick” drive to O’Fallon (using the quotes because it’s still at least 5 hrs traveling with toddlers), or a long haul to Florida (which we have survived, twice).
I don’t mean to brag, but I’d like to think that after logging what feels like 100,000+ miles in the car, Ryan and I have a solid game plan to get us to our final destination. Ryan drives, and I am basically the boys’ personal car concierge: I offer a variety of snacks, press play on a (heavily repeated) showing of “Sing,” or “Paw Patrol,” and sometimes I even provide (unpaid) iPad tech support.
Even on the shorter drives, we usually stop once to grab lunch or a snack, and do a diaper check. When you have a partner, this process is relatively painless. And you can pop in to use the bathroom without an audience.
A few months ago, the boys and I got really brave and decided to hit the road solo. Ok, it wasn’t exactly by choice, and I think we thoroughly panicked everyone in our family, especially Ryan, the entire time we were on the road. But! We survived and lived to tell our story. And oh boy, let me paint that picture for ya.
The halfway point between our house and my parents’ is Bloomington–about 2ish hours. We time it just right so that the stop either starts or wraps up a nap, and coincides with food in some way.
Prior to our departure, I basically put the fear of God in them, and said they had to guard their “dats”and stuffed animals with their lives in their carseats because if they fell down, it was “see ya soon, my friend.” I also suggested they request snacks with a “please” because you can’t stress out the driver (aka me) with sassy demands.
So, there we were…on the road, just living our best lives. Well the boys were anyway. I was listening to “Sing” for the thousandth time and periodically passing goldfish back (twisting my arm in the process to reach the kid behind my seat), all while keeping an eye on the road.
I was also trying my hardest to forget about my overwhelming urge to pee. You think I wanted to take them into a gas station bathroom? No thank you. Nope, not one bit.
So, we get to Bloomington and I explain that I have to use the bathroom as soon as we get into Portillo’s. Here’s the gist of what I told them:
“Ok, I have to go potty before we can eat lunch. So here’s what I need you to do…turn your listening ears on, and make sure they’re working today. Stay right by me. When we get in there, don’t touch anything. Actually, when we get in there, just put your hands up.”
“But why, mommy? Why we have to put our hands up?”
“Because it’s going to be icky. It’s not our bathroom at home.”
“Ohhh it going to be icky?! Ohhh ok. We gonna do that.”
I repeated that the entire walk across the parking lot. We even practiced putting our hands up a few times. And wouldn’t ya know…when we walked in, the handicapped stall (which I was counting on for the extra room) was taken. So there we are, side shuffling with our hands up into the smallest stall known to man. I keep reminding my audience to keep their hands up as I try to pee without fielding too many questions about anatomy, potty training, and life in general as I can.
Mid you-know-what, Nick leans forward and his hands go down. I panic–“Nick put your hands up, buddy!” And what does he do? He wraps his arms around my neck and says, “can I touch you mom? I love you, mommy.”
It was the sweetest, but also grossest moment of parenthood so far. I subsequently questioned my parenting too, simply because of where this heartfelt encounter occurred.
We escaped the Portillo’s bathroom unscathed and with minimal germs (they both touched the sink, excuse me while I choke back vomit) and ordered our lunch. I tried to enjoy my bacon cheeseburger (I deserved it after the bathroom experience), but my two sons, who are actually very articulate, would do nothing but growl at the people sitting next to us.
Seriously, the sweet couple next to us would ask them a question or tell them how cute they were, and both boys would furrow their brows and growl. Wonderful. Nice job, guys.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. You wanna know why? We hit the sweet spot of NAP TIME when we got back on the road. No more “Sing,” no more snacks, no more questions. Just my tunes and the open road (kind of, I-55 is littered with construction).
Not to get too sentimental here, but when we pulled into my parents’ driveway, I felt so proud–proud of myself for tackling this overwhelming task all by myself, and proud of my boys for being so easy going and adaptable in the car (and Portillo’s bathroom).
Here are my main takeaways from that momentous day:
- Despite the amount of coaching, preparing, and practicing, your kid will still touch SOMETHING in a public bathroom.
- Limit the amount of liquid you consume…you don’t want to have to tackle a public restroom multiple times.
- Only pack snacks that are easy to toss in the backseat (read: portion them out in individual snack bags), and make sure your aim is on point because you only get one chance to get it right.
- Time your drive to coincide with nap time so you can listen to your fave tunes in peace at some point for a decent amount of time.
- Remember Driver’s Ed: check all mirrors and settings before getting back on the road…because one kid climbed into the front seat and “adjusted” while you were changing his brother’s diaper.
- Roadtripping with toddlers is always easier with your trusted copilot.
- Treat yourself when you arrive at your final destination. You deserve it.