The car sleep

DONNELLE BELANGER-TAYLOR
Last updated 11:15 27/09/2012

I think most parents have done it; whether it's a baby who just won't sleep, or a preschooler who is a bit grumpy and unwell, sometimes the easiest thing to do is to bung them in their car seat and go for a drive.

If you're not afflicted with a car-seat-hating baby (and my absolute sympathies go to those who have to endure endless shrieking with every car trip), the movement generally helps to tip them over the edge into much-needed slumber.

My eldest son was a difficult baby to settle. Somewhere around the point where I started to wonder if it was possible to die from exhaustion (and sort of wishing I would), we tried the car trick.  

We were living in a shearer's cottage at the time, so hubby drove around and around and around the shed in the middle of the paddock.  It took less than 10 minutes and he was asleep, a vast improvement on the four to six hours of rocking, patting, feeding, shhhing, singing, sighing, bouncing and weeping that had shaped most of our evenings. (Of course, as was our experience whenever we felt as though we'd hit upon something that helped, it only worked once.)

A friend told us how at 3am one night, desperate to get the baby to sleep, he took their baby for a drive. He got as far as town before he realised that they didn't have enough petrol to get home again.  He parked on the forecourt of the local petrol station and both he and the baby slept in the car until 6am (when the petrol station opened).

When they were little, the twins often fell asleep on the way home from Playcentre. Occasionally I'd risk transferring them inside. I was often tempted to just put my seat back and have a snooze along with them. Sometimes, I'd park in the shady driveway, wind all the windows down, fetch a picnic blanket and a book, and lie on the sunny lawn next to the car.

I still employ the car sleep trick occasionally with Finn and Vieve. At three, they've sadly dropped their afternoon nap, but the last two weeks have been a rotating schedule of snotty noses and coughs. We're all sick and exhausted. Few things are as frustrating - and frustrated - at 3am as a thumb-sucker with a blocked nose!

So a necessary 45-minute drive (each way) to pick up my eldest gave them a good opportunity to catch a little kip and hopefully chase away the grizzly grumbles. I changed the CD from the usual (my kids are big fans of The Living End, or perhaps they're big fans of the way I make a fool of myself singing along (OI!)) to something more soothing, crossed my fingers and hoped.

Nope. They were both still awake when we got there, though when we went to get Xander, Finn lay on the footpath and said "I too tired for walking."  

They stayed awake all the way home, too... except for the last three minutes. Typical.  

I quickly reviewed my options. We could just go home, but there's something about the familiar bump-bump of the driveway that always wakes Finn. Three minutes of sleep was just enough to bring catastrophe down upon us, as his cries would then wake Vieve.  

I could have kept driving for a while, but I'm conscious of petrol costs.  

In the end, my hungry tummy decided the plan. I had $1.60 in my wallet, the exact cost of a soft-serve cone for Xander and a small fries for me. The twins were asleep; it'd be the cheapest McD's visit ever! I gleefully pulled into the drive-thru and placed our minuscule order.

In the fragment of time between paying and collecting our food, Finn woke up.

I really wished I'd just gone home. Three-minutes-of-sleep tears couldn't possibly be worse than seven-minutes'-sleep-and-I-have-no-ice-cream tears!

Have you ever used driving to get your kids to sleep?  What do you do once they are asleep?

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