Dear Father Hood: have any parents ever planned a car journey correctly?


Of course they have. They have planned. They have re-planned. They have done trial runs. They have used spreadsheets, walkie-talkies and cool-sounding code names. And do you know what? Sometimes it’s worked and the car journey has passed like a warm summer breeze. And sometimes it hasn’t and they’ve been forced to deal with anything from a slight hitch to a minor natural disaster involving cheese and leek crunchies, projectile vomit and the hard shoulder of a busy motorway.

All of which brings me to yesterday. The good news is that none of the above happened during our car journey. The bad news is that I was forced to ponder the question: would it be better to pee in an empty water bottle or attempt to wee into one of my son’s disposable nappies? Ooh, intriguing. It is, but you’re going to have to wait a few hundred words for the answer, because that happened on the way home and I need to get the outward car journey out of my system first.

The plan

The theory behind the opening trip of the day was simple. We’d leave just after the little man’s lunch, as this would ensure he’d fall asleep swiftly and remain in that state until we arrived at our destination. For the first 45 minutes everything went swimmingly. We set off, he smiled. We sang, he snoozed. We drove on, he snored.

Life was good. And then… the bubster opened his eyes just as we were passing a bus in central London. Usually we can get him back to sleep pretty quickly when he wakes up 45 minutes into his two-hour nap, but when his favourite vehicle is around we have no chance. Thus it was “hiya, hiya, hiya”, wave, wave, wave all the way to Balham. And then? Well then, he got cranky and wanted to go back to sleep. Which would have been fine if… we hadn’t just arrived for our first baby rave.

The ‘fun’ bit of the day

I’ve seen some clubbers in some pretty bad states in my time, but the bubster took the biscuit when he entered the dance floor yawning, screaming and crying waterfalls. Not the greatest of starts to our fun Mother’s Day adventure.

Happily, he soon perked up and by the time we headed for the exit he had posed with the DJ, sat on the bar, thrown a variety of shapes, drawn on the wall, owned the chill out zone, eaten his snacks, chewed a glow stick, climbed up and down (and up and down and up and down) several flights of stairs and generally burnt off enough energy to ensure that he’d sleep on the way home. And he did. He slept for the full one hour and 15 minutes we’d scheduled it would take us to get home. Unfortunately, the M25 is no respecter of parental schedules.

The trip home

After 75 minutes of our journey we were still in the queue to get past Heathrow. On the upside, I was able to spend 15 minutes pointing out the window and saying “plane”. On the downside, I really needed the toilet. I’ve become far more adept at pushing my bladder to the limits since the little man was born, but this was getting critical. I crossed my legs. Then uncrossed them. Then crossed them again.

“What are you doing?” asked my wife, prompting me to air the aforementioned question about whether a nappy or bottle would be the best option. Bubby listened intently, leaned forward and pushed me in the nose. I took this as a vote for the bottle. I also reckoned that would be the best option (I’ve been in these situations before), but my wife thought the nappy deserved a little more consideration. “Surely, it’s perfect,” she argued. “After all, gathering urine’s what it’s designed to do.”

Ask Google

All of which led me to Google the phrase “amount of urine produced by a baby versus amount of urine produced by an adult”. The results were confusing, but from what I could gather fully-grown humans produce quite a bit more. Thus the nappy was returned to the baby bag. I was about to reach for the bottle when bubby started hitting his head off the back of his seat and laughing hysterically.

“Stop him,” stated by wife. So I tried. I distracted. I sang. I read. I pointed at imaginary animals. I played “Where’s daddy’s hand?” (nowhere near as sinister a game as it sounds). I fed him some cheesy crackers. I played peek-a-boo. And I pretended to be asleep. Did any of these things stop him smacking his head off his chair? Absolutely not. But they did take my mind off my bladder and by the time the wee man gave in to tiredness we were one junction from home.

The final stretch

Would I be able to make it home without wetting myself and was it a good idea to let the baby snooze so close to his bedtime? Yes and no. I burst through the bathroom door and let out a loud exclamation of glee seconds after we got home. And bubby burst into tears on the first four occasions my wife tried to put him down. Happy Mother’s Day, darling. Let’s agree to stay out of the car next year.



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