There must be something very calming about the final 50 metre stretch to my front door. As babies and toddlers, my children would remain stoically awake (i.e. screaming) for the entire journey – whether it be 3 minutes or 3 hours long – until those last 50 metres, when their eyelids would grow suddenly heavy and sleep would pull them in…
Of course, the minute I turned off the engine or (more daring still) kept the engine running and tried to do “The Transfer” into the house, their eyes would spring right open as if to say “Just forget about it! Let’s pretend the whole damn thing never happened!” And then their mood would be even less charming than before the micro-sleep (i.e. more screaming) and they would somehow use those 2 minutes of sleep as leverage to stay up at least one hour later than usual (still screaming).
Tiddles McGee is the worst of them all. Even now, he can fall asleep in the car in the 1km between the school and home. I’ve tried repeatedly shouting “STAY AWAKE!”, singing show tunes at the top of my voice and getting the other children to poke him. When it’s just him and me, I’ve even taken to throwing balled-up tissues at him from the driver’s seat. He just shouts “I’m not sleeping. I’m RESTING!” and then somehow still manages to fall asleep.
It always reminds me of this game show I once saw in Japan where a group of people were strapped into a bus without sides or a roof and driven through walls of fire and swarms of wasps. And all the time they were expected to try to complete a complicated maths problem on these little blackboards. Oh, and the host was dressed up as a bottle of sake.
Now, obviously nobody is dressed up as a bottle of sake in Tiddles’ situation. Well, not yet anyway. My point is that Tiddles McGee could be a passenger on that Bus of Weird and still fall asleep.
So, inventive soul that I am, I came up with a game to play when I don’t want him to fall asleep in the car.
This is how you play it:
When you go around a corner, you go “Ooooooooooo!”
When you drive under a bridge, you shout “Wa-HEY!!”
When you go over a speed-bump, you say “Bee-Boh!”
When you see a truck, you shout “Trucky-ucky-uck!”
When you see a red car, you call out “Boom-boom-boom!”
When you have to stop at a traffic light, you go “Aw, mannnnnn!”
When you go ’round a roundabout, you sing “You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby, right round round round”.
Just to give you a few examples.
TIddles loves it. He stays awake just to go “Ooooooo!” as we pull into our driveway. Result.
Of course, I hadn’t taken into account the long-haul car trip and my children’s staying power when I came up with this particular game. On a recent trip to my mother’s, we hadn’t even hit the outskirts of the city and my husband was beginning to twitch uncontrollably from the constant stream of “Boom-boom-booms!” and “Trucky-ucky-ucky-ucks!!”.
I just sat quietly in my seat, shrugging my shoulders and rolling my eyes slightly, as if to say “Kids! Who’d have ’em!”, like I had Nothing Whatsoever to do with all this hullabaloo. But when one of the kids asked me what they should say when they saw a bus and I let out a rapid-fire “Bussity-Bussity-Bussity-Bussiteeeeeeee!”, he turned to me with the kind of look that let me know in uncertain terms I had ruined his life.
Luckily for my marriage, the further you drive into the country, the less there is of everything and eventually the children fell silent. And Tiddles McGee? Well, he fell asleep about five kilometres from my mother’s door, which is the country-equivalent of 50 city metres, and then bounced off the walls until 10:30pm. Which, in my humble opinion, is far worse than a car-full of kids shouting “UTILLA THE HUN!” every time they see a ute. But then, that’s just me.