It takes approximately nine and a half hours to drive from our home to Princeton, NJ. At least that’s what Google Maps says, but it’s worth noting that they don’t have an “adjust time for toddler” button. If they did, that number would swell to somewhere around 15 hours. Spending hours on end confined to a small space with anyone is a risky endeavor, but tossing in a three-year-old with enough energy to power a modestly-sized town for a weekend will test the limits of human endurance.
Having a young child who is still learning to master his bowels naturally necessitates more stops than usual, but each of these pit stops would typically go one of two ways: either Miles “doesn’t need” to go to the bathroom or he’ll find the facility unsuitable for his needs (this last one is understandable — I have standards too). But whichever of these was the case, we wouldn’t be back on the road for five minutes before Miles said, “I need to go potty!”
Making matters worse, once he started to catch wind of the frustration his ill-timed announcements caused us, he actually started trying to play us. “I need to go potty!” he’d call, followed by some pretty convincing grunting and facial straining. Then, when he knew he had gotten us, he’d burst out laughing at his blood-pressure boosting ruse.
Then there was the screaming. The incessant screaming. Sometimes he was angry. Sometimes he was happy. But always, always, he was screaming. This was something I couldn’t tolerate even in the best of circumstances, but in high-traffic areas it actually became a safety concern.
Fortunately, I found a solution. I’d tell Miles to stop, issue a final warning, then roll down his — and only his — window, causing a loud THUMP-THUMP-THUMP noise from the air flow that also blasted him as it rushed in, neither of which he liked. Call it “light sonic torture” if you like (I do), but it got results.
The road was long and hard, but I also can’t deny that it gave me and Jaclyn numerous opportunities to talk about our parenting approaches in real-time. From the driver’s seat, I helped Jaclyn engage with Miles in fun ways, reminding her that we can’t expect a three-year-old to occupy himself for six-plus consecutive hours in a car. And Jaclyn helped me be more patient with them both.
Throughout it all, we both hoped against all rational thought that Miles would just go the f*** to sleep.