Special needs

Why I can't take road trips with my daughter

The Krishna family attempted their first family road trip over the long weekend and Anchel discusses what they learned.

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Syona during much earlier, happier times in the car. Photo: Anchel Krishna

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy.

We’ve avoided trips any longer than two hours up until this point. Why? Syona does not sleep in the car. She never has really, even in infancy. She used to hate the car and scream and cry no matter where we were going. That’s improved considerably as she’s gotten older. We’ve also gotten her a Diono Radian car seat which allows her to sit more upright than a lot of other models and is safe for kids up to a bigger size than most.

So when we received an invitation to a family friend’s wedding (he’s more like a brother) we said yes. The only caveat: the wedding was in Chicago. Originally, we were thinking about flying down but since our family was driving down anyways, we figured we may as well attempt to drive. With our child. Who doesn’t ever sleep in the car. Ever. Preparations were made a week in advance and included a fully-stocked, Syona-friendly playlist with lots of new songs, an iPad filled with games and videos that we were hoping Syona would watch, a backpack filled with a selection of toys and book — some of her favourites and a few new selections that we hoped she would play with. I was really hopeful that maybe if Syona was tired enough she would realize the car was a great place to have a nap.

Read more: Is watching movies in the car harmful for your kids? >

So we left on a Friday at 6 a.m. Syona was good for the first portion of the trip. Until she got tired. So I jumped in the backseat, sat beside her car seat and attempted to put her to sleep. It didn’t work and she screamed for about an hour and a half. At that point we decided to pull off the highway, I pulled her out of her car seat and held her for 10 minutes until she fell asleep. Once she was into a deep sleep I managed to get her into back into the car seat, did up the buckles and tightened the straps. Dilip started the car and we were ready to hit the road again. But Syona had other plans (as usual) and woke up. After a few minutes of crying we decided sleep wasn’t going to happen and we would power through. At our next break we met up with my parents, an aunt and a cousin who were in another car and after some lunch we decided to switch up the seating arrangement. My mom and aunt sat with Dilip and Syona in our car. Syona spent the next three hours being constantly entertained and it got us to our destination. I got to spend three blissful hours staring out a window, zoning out and actively avoiding thinking about the return trip home.

The wedding weekend was great. The events were so well-planned and a lot of fun. We were so happy to be there. But Monday came around pretty quickly. Given that we knew Syona wouldn’t sleep in the car we made a plan to leave pretty early in the morning and stop at an outlet mall about four hours into our trip. My hope was that she would be tired by that point and we could give her a quick nap (and spell each other off so we could shop). That didn’t happen. The rest of our time on the road was spent playing with Syona, distracting her as much as possible. It worked all the way up until our last leg. As we were pulling into the driveway Dilip and I decided we’re going to hold off on any long road trips with Syona, at least for a little while, and maybe save them for the occasional childless getaway.

Do you ever take road trips with your kids? What are your tips?