Posted: Dec 03, 2012 8:00 AM
 
Today, this column isn't about parenting a child with special needs. Today, this column is about parenting in general. Because, in the end, that extra clause — with special needs — just means a few things will be more challenging, perhaps more delightful and always more enlightening. But for now, let's talk about parenting during a road trip.

I'm supposed to be writing about how to reach out to someone after they learn a child has Down syndrome (either at birth or with a prenatal diagnosis).

It's an important topic, no doubt. And it's helpful to address these important, emotional topics so other parents can realize they're not alone. We all go through similar experiences.

But, truthfully, sometimes it's important to eschew that emotional subject matter altogether.

Sometimes, every so often, it's much more beneficial to focus on how you want to sell your toddler to the Russian circus after spending six hours and 32 minutes in a car with him as he whined and screamed and yelled and hyperventilated across the entire, really wide state of North Carolina.

Please, God, grant me silence

This little glimpse into my life of Chasing Charlie and his sister, Mary Emma, has nothing to do with special needs (although, by the time we reached our destination, I had a very special need for a big ol' glass of wine).

The lesson today, at least what I've learned, is that it is absolutely okay to toss your self-patrolled parenting rules to the wind while you pray for just a mile's worth of silence.

I'm talking about my first solo road trip with Charlie and Mary Emma.

Please, God, grant me strategic napping

I guess I got too cocky after thinking I'd perfectly timed our departure to coincide with my munchkins' post-luncheon naps. Both were asleep before we'd hit the main drag. I was brilliant, I thought.

My brilliance lasted exactly 15 minutes. Charlie awoke with a start and never slept again.

Mary Emma managed to sleep for a solid three hours and then made up for such perceived disengagement by joining her brother in a torrent of "Eh! Eh! Eh!" sessions. Charlie has also perfected an ongoing "ya-ya-ya-ya-ya" song, sung to a rhythmic breathing that, somehow, in a feat to be envied by opera singers, ensures he's never out of breath.

Awesome.

Please, God, get Henry the Octopus out of my head

I played the Wiggles DVD for approximately 75 percent of our ride. Including previews, the Wiggles DVD will capture Charlie's attention for 37 of its 39 minutes (two minutes are wasted on the magic box of mystery, which both children and I find boring and fast-forward-worthy).

So, think about it. A 390-minute car ride broken into 37-minute segments. Arguably, that's way too much math — unequivocally, it's way too much Wiggling.

We stopped three times along the way.

Returning them to their shackles was akin to stuffing a wild tiger back in his cage after he's experienced the whiff of freedom and the taste of steak.

Once, I freed them from their car seats, only to discover that returning them to their shackles was akin to stuffing a wild tiger back in his cage after he's experienced the whiff of freedom and the taste of steak.

I'm lucky I'm alive.

Please, God, don't let anyone see us like this

Why did I brave such a solo journey, you ask? The Husband's career required a departure approximately 36 hours after my own preferred departure. No, it hasn't crossed my mind that he chose a career that would present these quandaries. Well, it hadn't until now...

We arrived, quite the mess. Each child's pajamas (which seemed like the perfect traveling attire) were covered with crumbs of snacks they are never fed all at one time — until Mommy attempts to drive across the state alone with them.

Don't judge a mother who cracks under the pressure of incessant whining and begins to toss random particles of food over her shoulder as she continues to drive.

Sweet Mary Emma had a half-gnawed portion of a Chicken McNugget woven into her curls. What? How did a processed chicken product become part of my child's hair?

Now, look. Are you a parent? If you are, you know bad things are going to happen. Not bad, like someone will call Child Protective Services bad, but bad as in, you'd really rather your in-laws not see the particular state of disarray your children are left in, after some hare-brained scheme to do something like travel.

So, I implore you. Don't judge a mother who cracks under the pressure of incessant whining and begins to toss random particles of food over her shoulder as she continues to drive, hoping they will reach their marks, which may or may not be directly into their children's mouths so they are forced to stop screaming in order to... chew.

Please, God, invent minivan restrooms

Perhaps the greatest struggle throughout the trip was the mental argument I continued to have with myself, weighing the pros and cons of removing every last article of luggage from the car so as to free the double-stroller.

After picturing a pack of gypsies huddled together and watching the lineup of belongings, just waiting for us to roll away and leave them up for grabs, I kept driving.

After all, I knew that unlocking that double-stroller, that miraculous invention, would allow me to enter a restaurant and use its bathroom without leaving my children unattended in the vehicle.

After picturing a pack of gypsies huddled together and watching the lineup of belongings, just waiting for us to roll away and leave them up for grabs, I kept driving. Which made our arrival all the more... relief-filled?

Let's just say I was happy to see my family, but I was elated to see the restroom.

I wonder if traveling will get easier once both kids are old enough to understand bribery.

I wonder if I will ever stop asking silly questions like that.

Read more about traveling with kids

Travel tips for parents of children with special needs
A must-have for traveling with baby
Baby Gizmo must-haves: Diaper bag essentials

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