Parent Enemy No 1: The Automobile

The car is indeed one of the world’s greatest inventions. It transformed life as we knew it. Suddenly we could go further and faster than our feet, bicycles and horse and carts could carry us. It made the world smaller, more accessible and gave us untold freedom, ungoverned and untethered from the restrictive timetables of public transport. Cars are truly a wonderful addition and in many ways a fundamental part of modern living.

Blogpost: Parental Enemy Number 1: The Automobile www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby Blog
Will I kick off or will I take a nap?
photo credit: NoVa Hokie via photopin cc

They are, however, the enemy of parents – or more specifically parents who find themselves alone in a moving vehicle with a baby or small child. Before you rush to point out that they are an excellent tool for getting tired babies to sleep, I certainly give you that. Many’s the time I’ve driven longer than I needed to to keep a sleeping baby purring blissfully away or timed a journey to coincide with a much-needed nap. In that sense, they serve a wonderful purpose.

But sweet mother of the divine, is there anything more torturous or upsetting than being trapped in a moving car or in a stationery car caught up in traffic with a screaming baby in the back while you’re strapped firmly in the front seat? I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been on the motorway with no way of stopping when the baby has lost his tiny mind with distress and I’ve had to drive on helpless while he cried and called out for me to soothe and calm him. He even vomited once which was truly awful. I actually had a pain in my heart when that happened.

On one occasion, when Pip was a couple of months old, I even found myself in an industrial estate in the dark, sitting in the backseat of the locked car trying to feed him back to sleep while shaking with fear and berating myself at my stupidity for pulling over in such a desolate place. But he was so terribly upset and I didn’t know what else to do. That didn’t even work and the second he was back in the car seat it started all over again and I arrived home covered in my own tears and snot, clutching him to my chest and apologising over and over again to him for being such a cruel mama. You really tie yourself up in knots about these things in the early days, don’t you?

His general dislike of cars seemed to disappear when the clocks changed in the Spring so the evenings were brighter and he could see me in his mirror, and once he was big enough to have a front facing seat. I was never so delighted than when my low level anxiety humming along with the car engine finally dissipated. I was only reminded of it last week when Pip was very upset in the car when we were stuck in traffic on the way to creche. It’s really very stressful and then of course the mega-guilts kicked in when I realised later that morning that he was sick.

There’s something about babies strapped in car seats that seems so counter-intuitive to me. Of course they’re an absolute necessity for health and safety reasons but they’re also just one more item of modern paraphernalia that seems to be a barrier to holding our children. When you’re driving and they’re crying but you can’t stop and all you want to do it reach back and scoop them up and heal their woes. There’s a lot to be said for public transport I think! But that has its disadvantages too. Thank God for lovely walks, slings and holding little hands…

6 thoughts on “Parent Enemy No 1: The Automobile”

  1. I feel your pain. It’s terrible to be stuck driving somewhere and unable to pull in when your baby needs you. It’s a lot easier now with a toddler, because I can talk him down while we get to somewhere safe to pull in. I remember on my first long drive with Little Man though, he was only ten weeks old. We were driving to Limerick, and we got stuck in the worst traffic jam coming through Mountrath (pre motorway days). He screamed through close to an hour of a traffic jam. Thankfully my husband was in the back with him. I pulled in as soon as it was safe for us to do so. And that was when we discovered that the poor thing’s little arm was a mess. Remember that horrible boil-like thing that developed on the site of the BCG vaccine. Well apparently it decided to burst on that journey. I’ll never forget it… I think we were almost all in tears by the time I could pull the car in.

  2. Yes, yes, yes, yes… we have a little man (17 months now) who still HATES the car, simply will not tolerate it in the dark no matter what, and screams til vomits if we are in it for longer than 40 minutes. I am now effectively housebound most of the time (thankfully we have great friends who are willing to make the journey to us!) @Lisa, that story made me want to cry, you poor things X

  3. Lisa, that’s awful, I feel like crying now. This post is about one of the things I try to block out, I shudder when I think of the backward-facing carseat days. It’s no trouble for us now and, like Emily, I and children are mostly housebound these days (well with a lovely garden, surroundings and nice roads to walk!) but both my children were vomiters. It happened while on the road a lot and it usually happened once the baby was strapped in before the engine was even started. Great, these memories are causing me to have a nightmare while I’m awake!

      1. …..out of the car seat, off the floor, off the front seats…..Oh yeah, I left out the word “projectile” in my comment.

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