Long car trips with small children

I have been debating, sometimes even joking, that I may medicate the 3 year old on our trip up to the cottage on Friday.

The trip from our house to the cottage is, give or take, about five hours.

Sonja is, um…well, she’s 3. She’s chatty. She’s vocal both in a sing-song-y kind of way, and also in a complaining-about-everything-that-she-can-think-of kind of way.

I’m still debating whether to give her the antinauseant, or not. Currently, I’m leaning toward not.

Then I think about the past for a little bit, and the pendulum swings back the other way…

We took the same trip with her and Benjamin two years ago, when she was still a toddler.

Less than halfway to our destination we stopped at a fast food place because we HAD to, she was crying and screaming and kicking the seat and complaining and freaking out so much. We almost turned around and went home at that point.

Emotions for us ranged from frustration, exasperation, heartbreak and exhaustion. Is exhaustion an emotion? It should be.

It was not a pleasant experience, is what I’m saying. The thought of medicating her back then was probably hovering on the edges of my auto-pilot brain, but to be honest, I never really liked the idea of medicating anyone for anything, particularly not an unpredictable child like Sonja.

I googled this topic and found a few interesting tidbits. Most results I came across were about sedating kids during air travel. Not many articles spoke of car travel as a reason to give a kid a drug to knock her out. Perhaps this has to do with North American parents spending enormous amounts of time in the car with their kids, relatively speaking. Ultimately those trips to the store and the daycare and school and baseball practice all add up.

Having said that, I also found an interesting comparison on the terms medicating and sedating. According to this article parents often hesitate less to medicate a child with a fever reducer because she feels hot, than to sedate a child for a long trip for the sole purpose to make her sleep. The term ‘sedate’ appears to many parents as “more selfish and less responsible”, as mentioned in the article.

Back when Sonja was a screaming toddler in the car, Benjamin had his own issues, particularly because she ignited him to act the same way. But his dramatics were short(er) lived, and, if his sister did finally fall asleep, he was better able, or better equipped, to manage his outbursts.

My point is, that trip two years ago was not a happy one and we have shunned going places that require driving long distances since then.

But things are different today. For one, the kids are two years older. For another, we have a bigger car. It’s amazing how different your driving experience is when you have lots of leg and arm room in a car like a Honda Odyssey.

The other thing that is different is that we parents are two years more experienced (or seasoned, be that as it may). Honestly, the antics and theatrics are a part of our lifestyle so much that we are, generally speaking, less distracted by them today than we were two years ago.

Don’t all parents realize this shift, as the kids move into the ‘older’ young children stage?

It’s like we emerge out of auto-pilot somehow.

I have to say that although I really enjoyed the baby and toddler stage, the memory of that time is rather fuzzy (one reason why I have this blog). On the other hand, being more aware, and in tune with my kids now, has given me, and us, a different perspective in terms of them, and their behaviour. Really, if you stop and look at your life now, you may realize just how much you have learned from being a parent, just by being around your growing offspring.

Still, the car ride does loom to some degree. I know what to expect, but I also know that what I expect may not happen. So the plan is to be prepared.

But is there such a thing as being too prepared? Should we just let them be, free and childlike both in good times and bad?


Well, I do have a plan. Activities, food and at least one stop will help us enjoy the trip, and hopefully arrive in a happy mood, rather all stressed out and exhausted.

And then we get to do it again 48 hours later…

Let the summer vacation begin.


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