Toby has never been good in the car. His first time in the car was maybe the only time he was ok. He whimpered. He fell asleep.
The next few times in the car he was fine in the car seat, but then as soon as we pulled out of the driveway he shrieked, he bellowed, he wailed... I turned up the radio and he quieted.
After that though... after that was miserable. So much so I dreaded going to doctors appointments or grocery shopping or visiting, because that meant 20 minutes to town and 20 minutes home.
As he got older it got better. I could give him a snack or a drink and not need to stop every 10 minutes to nurse just to get him to calm down. Later when he was forward-facing I started talking non-stop about the things out the window just to keep him distracted. A Tractor! A cow! A horse! A buldozer! A cloud! Corn!
Eventually we braved the three hour drive to Stratford for a visit. The three hour drive took us about 4 and a half hours because of stopping every half hour to nurse and diaper change and re-assure and distract. We pointed out the farms and the John Deere dealership and the Kubota dealership and the cows and the sheep and the wind turbines in Shelburne....
I have often thought about, and often had suggested to me, why don't you just get a portable DVD player?
I was tempted. I sometimes still am. But the more I think about it, especially for a kid like Toby, the more uncomfortable with the idea I become.
I know him. I know he loves TV. And we don't really watch a lot of TV. The only movies he's ever seen are Cars, Wall-e, and Robots. He likes Mighty Machines. He likes Franklin. He likes Magic School Bus.
I know that he likes these things so much that he will go out of his way to find excuses to watch any of these things. And if I let him watch a movie on a long trip, he's going to ask for it on a simple trip to town. It's another thing to argue over. And yes I could make it clear that it's only for long trips, but if I only use it 2 times a year, is it worth buying?
I totally get when and why you would want a DVD player in the car...but I also don't think that watching more TV is what car rides should be about. Car rides should be about learning direction. Learning landmarks. Tucking things away in the long-term memory banks. Car rides should be about playing games as a family when you're bored. About singing loudly and terribly to the radio, even if all your speakers are used to emitting is Fred Penner.
When Toby was 2 we were showing a friend of ours our photo albums - a favourite pass-time of Toby's. He would flip pages and spew out some articulate toddler gibberish, and then turn the page again. We got to our Stratford trip and our friend asked "Hey Toby, what are these?" "Dindmills" "Wow windmills, those are pret-" "Going round and round and round in Delburne *page turn*"
She looked up at me in amazement. He knows that?
Sometimes you don't realize how much kids absorb from what you say or where you go when they seem to small to understand. If I stuck a movie in he wouldn't care about the windmills. He would get bored.
On the way home now he'll say "There's the tractor store, half way home!" "There's Ego's market, we're at the 9th!" "There's the Store, home is over the hill, right mom?"
He now has a 70 minute bus ride to school to deal with twice a day. I felt sick to my stomach on his behalf, knowing that he relied on snacks and music usually to keep him going. He still gets restless and impatient in the car, even with distractions. He threw up half way home on his first day of school and has greeted me off the bus with a scowl everyday since then. It usually takes half an hour and a snack before he's over it. I've been toying with driving him to school, but I know that will get old for me pretty quick, and it's harder for him to leave me once I'm there with him. It wasn't until we drove up to the school yesterday for Open House that I felt better about it all...
"MOM! That's the bumpy road the bus goes down!" "I know this bridge, the bus goes over it!" "That's the house with the red canoe, our bus comes up here too!" "That's the road where we drop some kids off!"
I was so relieved... So very relieved that things aren't as bad as his mood depicts at the end of the day. He knows how to entertain himself on a long drive. He's memorized landmarks. He knows the way.
And I really do believe that it's because we don't watch TV in the car. It excites him, instead of bores him, to learn about new places. Maybe my little non-traveler will take these skills on the road some day...