There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to hold his hands up and admit he made a mistake. Or, if you are me, lots of times. One of the more recent came during a particularly chastening half hour at Wetherby Service Station on the A1. There, just in between the Marks & Spencer and Greggs and just as our son entered his third consecutive hour of crying, I turned to my wife and said, ‘You’re right, we’ve done this all wrong.’
Save your applause, because while this might have been a noble admittance of error, it did nothing to ease our predicament. We were still a long, long way away from our destination. And we were still a long, long way from calming the bubster down. A dark few hours followed, but thankfully we survived. And as the sun rose over Scottish Highlands the next morning, we endeavoured to unpick where it had all gone pear shaped. Here’s what we came up with.
Mistake 1: setting off in the morning
Our reasoning for this seemed sound enough. We were absolutely knackered, so driving at night might be risky. And our son usually slept for two hours around 9.30am, so we’d tick off a good chunk of the journey while he was in the land of nod. And do you know what? For the first two hours this strategy worked a treat. Then he woke up and we realised that there were still, at best, six hours to go. By the time we combined the burping, feeding and nappy change stops with his multiple hard shoulder hissy fits the actual figure ended up being nearer 12. Ouch. Ouch. And ouch again. I’ve spoken to various dads since this harrowing half-day and they all say that, if you’re undertaking such a long car journey, the only option is to set off just after baby’s bedtime. ‘My kids sleep for longer and the roads are quieter,’ reckons my friend Fraser, who puts together a playlist before the off ‘because the radio’s rubbish at that time of night’.
Mistake 2: not stopping at the right places
I used to wonder why my sister visited so many obscure National Trust properties in the middle of England. Now, I know. She does it because these parks and stately homes tend to a) have decent baby change facilities, b) offer free parking, c) serve nice food and, most importantly, d) feature lots of space and play areas where kids can run or crawl around. In contrast, our first stop saw us bundle our baby into a Little Chef next the A1 and strap him into a high chair. No freedom. No movement. And no fresh air. No wonder he went ballistic at the prospect of going back into his car seat for part two of the journey.
Mistake 3: choosing the A1
If you’re heading to Scotland from London, the M1 is quicker and has better service stations. Fact.
Mistake 4: not flying
There were four reasons why driving from London to Scotland was initially deemed sensible. The first was the price – flying was expensive, taking the car was cheaper. The second was the amount of stuff we had – bottles don’t sterilise themselves etc. The third was the number of things we were trying to fit in – the wedding, a visit to my dad and stepmum, a weekend with my mum and stepdad, my sister, my best man. And the fourth was inexperience – we had never spent more than two hours in a car with the baby. Now we have spent more than two hours in a car with the baby and guess what? We never want to do it again. Thus we are flying up to Scotland at Christmas. Yes, it’s more expensive. Sure, we can’t take as much stuff. And it’s true, we can’t visit as many people. But it takes just over an hour. And given our above experience that sounds very pleasant indeed.