I’m a freelance parent, the kind that takes a little bit of everything from the whole wide world of motherhood with a dose of instinct along with a sprinkle of common sense. It’s a parenting formula which has evolved over time, 15 years to be precise, and very much born through trial and error.
I’ve also got a good back history of training and qualifications in early years and supporting families on their tentative steps into parenthood.
(keep reading, I’m not about to start preaching from the text books, promise)
So naturally I thought that being a mum third time round would come pretty easy. That my baby would sleep, I could return back to work and that we would enjoy impromptu days out in the car visiting friends, family and toddler groups or just taking in the sights and sounds of my beautiful Devon countryside. I didn’t drive when my teenager and pre teen were babies so the freedom of having a car this time was my greatest appeal.
And to a degree it has been easier. I’m confident that I’m doing the best I possibly can for my precious and last baby. I opted to co -sleep after accepting he just needs to be by his mama at night, I chat and play with him like any other parent would and I try to see the world through his eyes, understand his struggles and laugh when he laughs, but I just couldn’t get him to stop crying in the car.
Every journey became a nightmare, even quick trips to the local super market would see him hysterical by the time we’d left the village. In my eyes I’d failed. I’d created a car hating monster and my days were destined to be spent in my sleepy little village while our car sat taunting me in the drive.
We persevered with family days out at the weekend, only to end up all sat in silence as our littlest member of the family screamed protests of despair. Was he too hot, too uncomfortable, too scared? Did he get car sick? Was he in pain? Everything crossed my mind but the only thing which ever worked was to pull over, get him out, cuddle his tears away and place him back in his mobile hell.
But then things got better and I’m sharing what worked for us, should there be anyone else who is experiencing the car trauma which we did.
I like to listen to the radio in the car, it’s often the only time I get to hear the news and keep up with the big bad world but a chance encounter with a free cd was the magic bullet for us. It’s possibly the most irritating piece of music which we own but my son loves it. The minute he hears the childish tones of
‘jelly on a plate, jelly on a plate, wibble wobble, wibble wobble’
He stops crying. Instantly. The unfortunate thing for the rest of us is that there are only 5 songs on this particular cd so it gets quite repetitive very quickly but is 100% better than listening to the ear-splitting cries. Go get your self a cd, preferably with children singing on it.
Car Seat Choice
We got through a few car seats in our attempt to make things better. I won’t name and shame as I don’t think there is a one size fits all, but what really made a difference was having one which was high enough for him to see out of the window and was really snug and supportive. I can only think it made him feel safer as the cushions wrapped around his little body.
Restrictive straps also seemed to bother him, after doing some extensive research (I’m talking weeks here!) I found some which incorporate an impact shield and use the adult seat belt (an example is the Kiddy Phoenix Pro) I’m yet to check these out personally but it’s my next port of call)
Chatting And playing
Babies and toddlers get bored, and there is nothing more boring than sitting in a car seat staring at the back of another seat. So, providing he’s not tired (I’ll come to that in a minute) I chat and play, singing nursery rhymes or anything I know more than 5 words to (and if no one else is with me.) If I’m not driving, simple peekaboo and tickle games work too. I’m the first to admit that this can be difficult when all I really want to do is disappear into my Nothing Box, check my phone, catch up on work or mentally plan the week’s menus.
And I will get those times back again, they’re just on hold while ‘if you’re happy and you know it’ takes centre stage.
This is probably been the most important aspect in our car journey tool kit, timings are everything. Long journeys are coordinated around nap times, preferably with a busy or lively run up so they’ve burnt excess energy and more inclined to sit down. When he was younger any journey was planned around feeding times, the closer to his feed the better as this could guarantee he’d sleep.
I also learnt pretty quickly to take note of his cues. There was no point in me singing like a mad woman if he was whining because he was tired. If anything this made things worse. If he’s looking grumpy tired then helping him with some down time helps. This can be anything from holding his hand, ticking over his eyes or putting some gentle claiming lullabies on.
I’m not saying we’ve completely cracked it. Some days he still grumbles, usually because the journey’s too long or he’s over tired and taking a little longer to come back down through the sleep settling phases but with all the above we can now venture out and about,
Even if it is to a truly awful soundtrack.