Read an Excerpt
ON THE ROAD OR IN THE SKY
Diane glanced into the rearview mirror. She counted six little boy heads--three sons and three friends--in the minivan seats behind her. "Does everyone have his seat belt on?" she asked, maneuvering through traffic. It was Tuesday, and they were going to the beach at a nearby reservoir. She had blocked off the afternoon and had left early enough to beat the late-afternoon crowds. Stowed behind the backseat were sandwiches, chips, lemonade, water, beach balls, plastic tubs, beach towels, and sunscreen. She met her own gaze in the mirror and grinned. For once, she felt organized and prepared.
"Ryan doesn't," a voice came from the back.
"Ryan, buckle your seat belt," she said firmly but cheerfully.
"I don't want to."
"We all have our seat belts on, and you need yours on too." She glared at him through the rearview mirror. Ryan was a rowdy one. She wanted that seat belt on him, low and tight.
"I don't have to."
Diane changed to the far right lane, glanced at the traffic behind her, slowed the van, and pulled onto the shoulder, tires screeching for effect. Shifting the van into park, she turned around in her seat to face six sober little faces, eyes riveted upon her. "In my car you do have to, Ryan, so I guess we'll all just wait here until you do." All eyes turned to Ryan.
"Come on, Ryan. Hurry up!" one whispered.
"Yeah, come on, Ryan. You gotta wear your seat belt."
Diane watched. Finally, slowly, with the quietest little "click," Ryan buckled up. But as Diane watched, she thought she caught something in his eyes, in his set lips. This four-year-old didn't take defeat lightly. She had scored the first victory, but what challenges would she face with this child during the hours ahead?
Establish a way station close to the door, yet out of sight to entering guests, to speed everyone out the door in the morning. Teach children to hang their coats and to pile backpacks, signed permission slips, items to mail, shoes or boots, lunch money, and completed homework here.
Talk with your children before you take them shopping or on an outing about where you're going, how long it will take, what behavior you expect, and any reward that will come for good behavior.
Give a warning to your child who is a dawdler: "In ten minutes we are leaving for preschool" or "Five minutes until bath time."
Avoid going anywhere when you or the children are tired.
Give each child her own small backpack or fanny pack with snacks and tissues for outings. Invest in a backpack for yourself!
Keep a small cooler in the back of the car packed with snacks: apples or fig bars, grapes, thin pretzel sticks, caramel rice cakes, graham crackers, sesame bread sticks, string cheese, miniboxes of raisins, oyster crackers, animal crackers, yogurt cups, or melon balls.
Engrave on a dog tag the name of the stuffed animal your child totes everywhere. Include the child's name and your telephone number, and affix the tag to the animal's tail or another suitable spot.
Dress yourself and your child in layers when traveling by air. Temperatures can fluctuate on a long flight, and the climate may be far different at your destination than at your point of departure.
Choose an object such as a church, a tractor, or a decorated mailbox for each child to look for when traveling by car. Each child must find as many of his object as he is years old. Whoever finds his number first is the winner.
Plan a new activity for each hour of driving to keep children mentally occupied against the constant "how long till we get there?" At intervals, have them read aloud, play a game with one parent in the backseat, choose a toy from mom's bag, color quietly, listen to a story on tape, sing songs together, and eat snacks.
Stop for a ten-minute break for every two hours of driving. If possible, pack a picnic lunch instead of eating in a restaurant so that the children aren't going from one confining space to another.
Cut short crankiness or loudness in the car with this game: The first person to talk, giggle, or make a sound loses. The last to do so wins.
Become everyone's favorite "car pool mom" by stowing individual juice containers and a simple snack in a cooler in the back of the car.
Pack an extra fingernail clipper in your car's glove compartment or in the diaper bag to trim the baby's fingernails and toenails while he or she sleeps in the car seat.
When camping, attach bells to a toddler's shoes or clothing so that you can hear her if she wanders away.
Take along bread crumbs to feed the ducks and the fish when you go camping or to a lake.
Stow a bag of gummy worms or other favorite treat in the car glove compartment when you go camping. If you end up waiting out a storm in the car, you will have a snack ready.
Designate the child who balks at fastening his seat belt as the official Navigator. Don't start the car until the Navigator assures you that all passengers are buckled up.
Maintain a "care kit" in the car. Consider including: extra diapers, wet wipes, plastic bags for dirty diaper disposal, a few "car only" toys, bandages, sunscreen, adult and children's acetaminophen (in a childproof container), an empty water bottle, an extra set of clothes for a young child, hats with visors, a blanket, old sweatshirts or jackets, an umbrella, snacks that won't spoil, an empty baby bottle or sippy cup with lid, audiotapes, and books. Pack all the items in a toolbox or a plastic storage box with a fitted lid.