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The LOOOONG road ahead.
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The LOOOONG road ahead.

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The long road stretches out ahead of you as the sun rises. You soften into a cosy seat, stretch out, put on some classic yacht rock and prepare for a blissful journey across to France, culminating in a stay at a tranquil, isolated villa with no TV and the perfect pool with a view.

 Or you would do that, if you didn’t have two children under the age of three in the back. ‘WHERE’S PEPPA PIG? I LEFT PEPPA PIG BEHIND MUMMY WE CAN’T GO YET!!!!!!!!!’ (three year old). ‘WAAAAAAAAAAH!’ (baby).

The prospect of the holiday has now been transformed into an endless spiral of rage, navigation and countless hazards. And that’s just inside the car.

 We’d packed up (for a full day) for the first holiday en famille, packed-to-the-gunnels with a roof box and no room for our beloved surfboard. Surely it wouldn’t take that much longer than normal to reach western France just because we had kids? Why shouldn’t we be able to organise ourselves well enough to regain a glimmer at least of our pre-family surfing holiday vibe? With a misplaced confidence and a pocketful of used tissues before so much as making it to Hyde Park Corner at 5am, we sailed off into the Bermuda Triangle of a car-based holiday with kids. For the next two days of solid driving.

 In order to spare others the tortures we inflicted upon ourselves, here are some things that you simply must acknowledge and process (in therapy, if you feel it necessary), well ahead of any such undertaking:

Whatever time your app tells you to allow to get somewhere, double it. Nay, triple it.

 Particularly if you have a ferry to catch. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that despite all evidence to the contrary, when you have a baby you seem to forget that they will be covered in poo approximately thirty seconds after you set off from home / the petrol station / the one hour lunch stop, so you’ll end up stopping again immediately afterwards. Additionally, a toddler will insist a la Bowie ‘Mum, I’m only dancing’ when you know it’s a toilet dance, then need to go in the car. All you can do is hope to give birth to boys, and carry empty plastic bottles with you if you have any hope of getting anywhere in time. Just don’t even think about purchasing a Fanta at any stage in the journey or something terrible could happen.

You may well spend twenty hours in the car together, but you and your fellow adult will never hold a full conversation during that entire time.

You’ll be lucky to have a full conversation anytime, mind you, for the first three years or so per child. However, having a long car journey might otherwise provide you with some valuable chat time to ruminate upon such issues as  ‘if we have another child does that we go vegan just because it’s cheaper?’ and that old classic ‘why don’t you do more around the house / I am working for our future’ (delete as applicable). On second thought, perhaps it’s best that any attempt at conversation is cut preternaturally short.

No amount of toys will be enough.

The only way to get through it is to:

  • Keep a load in the front seat which you can throw back in a rotation manner as they tire of the back seat collection
  • Feed them. All the time.
  • Provide an iphone / iPad / DVD player then feel guilty about it but smug - at the same time, for hours.

Your music system is no longer your music system.

It’s definitely no longer an opportunity to chuckle along with ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’. It is a distraction technique and should be considered carefully as such. Once you start the nursery rhymes in the car, however, you’ll never be able to stop them. I’m pretty sure that in the director’s cut of the Shining there was a bit about having ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ tune going round and round in his head which tipped Jack over the edge.

 Farm them out.

If there is ever the option (grandparents, stupidly naïve brother of yours) of farming the journey part onto someone else, take it. They will never speak to you again most likely, but hell, who needs that many people around a Christmas dinner table anyway?

Much like childbirth, however, there would appear to be some kind of conspiracy in place whereby Mother Nature over-rides your terrible memories of the last car holiday in order for you to undergo it again. But remember, when your toddler has learnt the phrases ‘Why?’ and ‘What’s that?’, don’t even attempt a journey until they can answer 85% of these themselves.