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Devon Corneal Headshot

The Long Ride Home

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Before I became a parent, I used to travel. I saw Europe. I took planes, trains and automobiles across the United States. When I was pregnant, I dreamed of taking Little Dude with me on memorable family vacations to the places I hadn't yet seen. Motherhood was not going to slow me down.

That was before I met my son, the vomit machine. Little Dude has such extreme motion sickness that he throws up in any and all moving vehicles. I've mentioned this before, but given the sheer volume of puke this tiny person produces, I thought it was worth revisiting.

I discovered his propensity to spew when he was 6 months old, in the first hour of a nine-hour drive to the beach. He started to fuss. I thought he was hungry. I shoved a container of sweet potato puree down his gullet in the hopes that he'd settle down. That was a mistake. Five minutes later, we pulled over at a rest stop and spent the next twenty minutes trying to get a fragrant mixture of breastmilk and orange squash out of every crevice of the backseat and debating whether we could trade in our car at the next Toyota dealership. I had no idea such a small person could expel such an enormous amount of nasty.

During that trip we learned Little Dude's traveling limits (20 minutes) and the warning signs (white lips, fussiness, thrashing and moaning). We also developed counter-measures: windows down for fresh air, a car temperature of 69 degrees, a stomach full of crackers, and Sea-Bands. (Because we are not always successful in preventing an eruption, we also carry a vomit recovery kit of paper towels, wet wipes, a change of clothing, plastic bags and air freshener.)

I also learned that very few of my dreams about parenthood would ever match up to reality.

My father recently told me that every kid in our family gets carsick and we all outgrow it in our teens. I think he meant to be reassuring. I don't remember getting this ill although I vaguely recall one of my cousins vomiting blood by the side of the road on one trip. I also remember being pissed off that she got to ride in the front seat, which is probably why I ate all of the frosting off her Butterscotch Krimpets. Sorry, but you should not expect to get the front seat and frosting.

We hoped Little Dude's problem was limited to cars, but we re-evaluated after a trip to Florida ended with an entire plane reeking of vomit. For the past two years, we've refused to travel any farther than our local Target. The first year wasn't so bad, but I got stir crazy pretty quickly. I started drooling over the pages of National Geographic and trolling the Internet for home remedies for motion sickness. When Well-Traveled Husband suggested a family vacation to California, I knew something had to be done.

I needed a doctor and I needed one quick. I wanted to drug my kid.

This is a little more complicated than it sounds. I have an almost pathological fear of giving Little Dude any kind of medicine. He's never taken Tylenol and I can count on one hand the times he's gotten a prescription medication. I angsted over his vaccinations and drove the pediatrician crazy with questions and hand-wringing. A nurse practitioner once give me an ultimatum -- I had two minutes to decide what I was going to do or she was going to leave and go see other patients. I'm sure this has something to do with the fact that while I wasn't raised in a "Christian Scientist pray over your kid's ear infection and hope they recover" kind of home, it wasn't that far off. My family is of the "your immune system exists for a reason, let it do its job" type. I rarely got medicine. I planned the same for Little Dude.

It's amazing how quickly I threw my parenting ideals out the window when confronted with sunny weather and the Golden Gate Bridge. I called the pediatrician, who practically threw a bottle of Benadryl at me. A teaspoon at the start of a trip should solve my problems. I was giddy as a schoolgirl.

However, no way was I getting on a plane for six hours without a trial run. So Little Dude and I packed up to visit my parents. A four-hour car ride was long enough to test the efficacy of my new friend, but short enough that if it didn't work, I could survive the smell.

I am considering becoming a Benadryl spokesperson. This stuff is magic. I'm not kidding. Ten minutes into the drive Little Dude was nodding off. Twenty minutes in and he was out. Slept like a baby for two hours and spent the remainder of the trip in a blissful fog. I drove into my parents' driveway like a conquering hero. I was invincible.

If you know anything about my life, you know that this is about the time I get struck down for being smug and self-satisfied.

A few days later we went home. I gave Little Dude his slug of miracle juice and started driving. He fell asleep. I renamed myself "The Road Trip Queen." We were halfway home when I came to a screeching halt. Ahead was nothing but red taillights. People got out of their cars and started asking the truck drivers why we were stuck. I heard "blah blah giant truck on fire blah blah explosion blah blah medivac blah blah." All I could concentrate on was the fact that I was in a dead stop on a major highway with a drugged up 4-year-old who was going to wake up with the munchies and I was out of snacks. And water. And the iPad was running low on battery power. (Yes, I give him the iPad because, strangely enough, it doesn't make him nauseous. I do not know why. If I understood any of this, I'd probably be able to find the cure for cancer.)

What was supposed to be a three-and-a-half-hour trip turned into a seven-and-a-half-hour nightmare. Little Dude woke up cranky and hungry. I couldn't re-dose him because the label said not to. Don't think I didn't consider it. I called Well-Traveled Husband to complain and got a nice dose of sympathy but did not get the helicopter evacuation I really wanted. When we made it home later that evening, I renewed our subscription to National Geographic. I decided that I really like my backyard. Travel is overrated.

Postscript
We are currently on our long-planned trip to California. My husband did not believe me when I told him I had PTSD from my car trip with Little Dude. Apparently, the universe decided that I hadn't been sufficiently humbled. I gave Little Dude Benadryl as we got on the plane, thinking that I could have a drink and catch up on some reading while he slept. He spent the next seven hours acting like he was all jacked-up on Mountain Dew. Did you know that Benadryl makes some kids hyper? Even if they've previously fallen asleep taking the pink magic juice? Well, it does. Consider yourself warned.