Friday, April 3, 2009

Safe Driving with a Lively Backseat

QUIZ QUESTION: Which one is the greatest menace behind the wheel?

1) A college student driving a Beemer while simultaneously listening to her Ipod, Facebooking on her Blackberry, laughing on her cellphone, sipping a $12 Starbucks drink and applying mascara

2) A blind and deaf 85 year old driving out of the church parking lot

3) A 16 year old test-driving his uncle’s red Ferrari while test-drinking his grandfather’s homemade whiskey

4) An overworked, underloved 55 year old banker gunning his new Harley past the playground where the pretty moms hang

5) Me, behind the wheel of a Camry, with Angelina screaming loudly enough to shatter the windshield (she strongly dislikes car rides), Bean incessantly requesting fresh-squeezed orange juice, Bella insisting that I talk like Peter Pan while she pretends to be Wendy Darling, and our slightly-too-peppy Fisher Price Car Songs CD in the background.

The correct answer is (5). I won't describe the three "thank you guardian angels" near-incidents that I've created in the past two months. Suffice it to say we're basically entirely pedestrian these days (thanks to the great, walkable village where we live) until I get the situation under control. Do you have any suggestions on car rules/guidelines for lively little passengers and ways to enforce rules while driving? Or should we go ahead and install an automated sound-proof window that separates the front seat from the rest of the vehicle in our Toyota limousine?


sophei said...

I think I'd go with the sound-proof window.

But if it's out of the budget...

I don't know the ages of your kids. I am easily distracted in the car so I do not allow yelling ever. With my then 4 yr old, I once pulled over (on a safe, quiet road) and made him stand next to the car facing it for a moment with me (on a "time out"). It was after repeated requests that were completely ignored.

But for the normal kid stuff, that isn't bad behavior, I don't shy away from saying things like "buddy, I can't respond to that right now, I need to keep my eyes on the road so I can drive safely. Would you say a prayer for me that Mommy is a safe driver?"

That usually keeps the chaos at bay. But doesn't really work for littlest ones.

I have music that isn't annoying but that we all like. Maybe books on cd?

Otherwise, hunker down in your house until they are 18 or so. ;)


Right Said Red said...

while it is probably not in the budget right now, a mini-van really solved our problems. Just having that extra space between loud children and the driver has totally eased my sanity, and increased my focus while driving. Other that than, I don't have a lot of advice, other than keeping things pedestrian ;-)

Kat said...

JM, Maria has always hated her carseat and until recently (she is now 17 months old) she would also scream even for the shortest of car trips. I think that our 20-hour trek from Chicago to Houston really traumatized our entire family - she screamed basically the entire way! My feeling is that everyone is a little bit on edge when the baby is inconsolably screaming, especially other children who are in the car. What has helped recently is that Maria can be distracted (for shorter distances) by snacks and by Christopher making her laugh. Maybe you could chat with Bella and Bean and see if they would be able to distract Angelina? Soon she'll be at the age where she can eat snacks in the backseat, and that should help. Also, I've found that there are some great kids' CD's that aren't overwhelming for adults to listen to - we've gotten Peter and the Wolf from the library, it's a narrated version by Leonard Bernstein, and all of us love it. Raffi is another car favorite - his songs are fun but not wild, so the kids enjoy them but don't get all riled up.

Let us know how things go!

Drea (Monkey Monkey Underpants) said...

The book on CD thing is a really great idea. Go visit your local library and find something that the whole family can enjoy. My 13 month old loooves listening to books on CD and my husband and I have found that we've actually really gotten into them too. Most recently we've "read" "The Tale of Desperauex" and it keeps my daughter calm and quiet. I'm sure this would help with older kids too.

Right Said Red said...

Oh, and I would like to add that I bet you are a safer driver than the blind and deaf woman coming out of the church parking lot. Two years ago, I was actually hit by an elderly lady in our church parking lot. She ran over my shoe (I popped my foot out at the last minute) and knocked me over backing out of a parking space--unbelievable. It took my husband banging on her car to get her to stop. Anyway, we have had so many close calls with elderly drivers in our church parking lot that I actually think it one of the most dangerous places for a pedestrian!

And on another note, one other thing that works to quiet my older two in the car--threats to turn on talk radio! My kids listen to adult music, really whatever music my husband and I enjoy, and they love it. If they get whiny or loud I threaten to put on talk radio and they are instantly promising they will be quiet. We have never done kid centered music in the car, it drives me batty. Even the so called "good stuff" bothers me.

This suggestion probably does little to help with a screaming baby, but snacks, a pacifier, or a juice cup have always helped us with a crying baby.

Anonymous said...

Like Right Red Said, it sounds like you need to get a bigger car. I've been there, I understand how difficult it is. But there is a reason why Minivans rule the parents of preschooler/young kid set. They are designed better for family travel.

texas mommy said...

I have been contemplating rearranging our car seats as we have been having car issues recently, too. I do try to time errands so that the kids can have their snacks then, which is peaceful as long as they last.

Also, a few weeks ago I instituted "quiet time" in the car. They have to be silent while we pray a decade of the rosary or some other prayer if they want me to turn on their music or story afterwards. This works most of the time.

Also, distraction. We play "I Spy" in the car for colors or shapes. We count certain kinds of trucks or cows, etc.

But our Incredibaby also strongly dislikes the car, and his screaming makes me so tense!!

Juris Mater said...

Thanks so much for your suggestions and your empathy, ladies! Kat and Tex, like you identified, I think the always-screaming baby is a huge factor... the two older kids love the books on CD that we have but particularly Bean is completely traumatized and undone when the baby screams and then Bella starts scolding and threatening in big sister fashion. Before I know it I'm bashing into curbs or almost hitting pedestrians. And Sophie, it helps that you say you find that you're easily distracted by the chaos... I think I need to realize that I am too, maybe more than average, and be perhaps even more vigilant about keeping the kids quiet. I forgot about the idea of letting someone out of the car (in a safe place) for time-out... we tried that once and it worked wonders. Since we can't get a minivan right now, we'll just have to see what else works!

Red, I can't believe you got run over in the church parking lot. I'm not surprised, seeing what I see every Sunday and many weekday mornings before and after Mass (daily Mass may be even worse). We carry all our kids across the parking lot, then let them walk across the street and everything. The parking lot is WAY more dangerous.

Mary Alice said...

JM, I am not sure if you are still reading comments here, but I also wanted to mention that reaction times are bad when one is surviving on a delicate ratio of sleep and chocolate. This makes minor distractions more of a problem, I think.