Traveling With Kids

By Vince Sabio
HumourNet Communications, Ltd.

Four days and 2000 miles (3200km) later, I have somehow survived the
Great Snowboard Massacre of 1996 -- but snowboarding (as a topic)
will have to wait; *this* opener's topic is "TRAVELING WITH KIDS."

For all the parents on the list, let me put this weekend into

1. Me
2. Two kids: my eleven-year old niece and thirteen-year-old nephew
3. Two nights
4. Eight hundred miles in the car

No sweat, right? Wrong. I am a bachelor.

I'm also a firm believer in what I call the "Rent-A- Kid"(tm)
concept: you check out one or two children for a day (preferably
related, although any children -- neighbors' kids, etc. -- will
suffice in a bona fide Rent-A-Kid(tm) emergency), take them
someplace fun for a while, and check them back in once you've
reaffirmed your commitment to remain single and childless.
Sometimes, this can take as long as twenty minutes.

This weekend was particularly unique, though, in that I've never
checked the kids out for more than twelve hours, nor have I ever
soloed more than one child at a time. The trip was two days and
800 miles in the car, and -- being new to this sport -- I was not
previously aware of the need for "child activities." Needless to
say, I need a vacation. So does my car.

Let's talk kids. First, there's my niece, Megan. Megan is, very
objectively, very beautiful. Eleven years old, and absolutely
drop-dead gorgeous. (Fully-grown women hate her already, and she
can't figure out why.) She is also not my brother's child; most
likely, she was accidentally switched in the nursery at birth.
"Why," you ask, "do you say that?" Easy. If you'd ever seen my
brother or his ex-wife, you'd realize that there's simply no way
either of them could have produced this child. Somewhere, there is
a supermodel couple wondering how their kid got screwed over by the
gene pool.

However, Megan *does* follow the conservation-of-looks-and-brains
theorem (I'm gonna burn for this one), which states that the sum of
a girl's "appearance" figure (scale of 0 - 10) times ten plus her I.Q.
equals a constant somewhere around 150. In Megan's case, this formula
leaves only about 50 points available for I.Q. For example, here is a
typical Megan conversation -- and one that actually occurred this
past weekend:


Me: Megan, is something wrong?

Megan: I can't find my sunglasses ...

Me: They're on your head, sweetheart.

Megan:  Oh.

Okay, so perhaps she *is* my brother's child. But the similarity
ends there.

Then there's my nephew, Justin, who (at thirteen) is just beginning
to outgrow the "whining" stage -- something he'll grow back into
once he's married, I'm sure. Justin is, unfortunately, living
justification of women's claims that males can (and do) out-whine
females; Justin doesn't even leave us room for argument. Sixteen
hours in the car with him, and you realize why some animals eat
their young. Actually, I had fifteen and a half hours to contemplate
that thought, since it was first consciously considered about thirty
minutes out of port.

The trip was not without its high points -- I did, after all, learn
some very important things about traveling in the car with children.
I'd like to share some of them with you, as they may be of use to
other bachelors planning to expand the daily Rent-A-Kid(tm) plan
into a weekend getaway:

1. Keep them separate! Yes, if the children's ages differ by less
than five years, you will need to put some space between them. The
following formula provides a good rule of thumb:

 safe_distance = 5.0 / (age_of_older_child - age_of_younger_child)

Note that this measurement is made in miles. Thus, for two children
who are two years apart, 2.5 miles should be a safe distance. Twins
should never travel within the same solar system.

2. Keep them occupied. Anything that can hold a child's attention
for more than five minutes will work. For girls, the license-plate
game is always loads of fun. And for boys, I've found the "hit the
other car with the paint bomb" game to be very effective, despite
its potential liability. Warning: Some people have no sense of humor.
Use a fast car.

3. Bring duct tape. Don't use common clear-plastic tape, as it is
easier for the children to remove (or bite through). Duct tape also
absorbs a great deal of sound.

4. In case all else fails, carry cyanide pills. Not for them; for you.

(For those who are interested/concerned at this point: Yes, at the
combined suggestions of the Department of Health and Human Services,
the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland State
Department of Corrections, I have decided to *not* have any children
of my own. Plus, it's so much fun terrorizing OTHER people's kids.)

Seriously, though, it's really not all that bad. In fact, there are
some really *nice* things about being away with the kids for a
weekend; for example, it's (ironically) easier to meet women when
you have kids with you. Why, just look at this sample conversation:

Woman: Hey, what are you doing in here?

Me: Sorry. My niece had to go to the bathroom.

Megan: Uncle Vinnie, isn't she the one you said had "a really nice

Me: Shush, Megan.  Heh ... 'Kids'! No telling *where*
they get their crazy ideas from, huh?

Woman: If you don't get out of here ...

Me: Sorry, Miss, but she can't go to the bathroom alone, yet.
She'll be out in just a minute ...

Megan: But Uncle Vinnie, I *told* you I could go to the bathroom
alone. I've been going to the bathroom by myself for *years* ...

Me: *Quiet*, Megan!

Woman: I'm calling the police ...

Me: Does this mean that dinner's out of the question?

See? In no time at all, I managed to strike up a meaningful
conversation with a total stranger -- a conversation that, years
from now, I'll be able to look back upon fondly and say, "Yes, Mr.
Warden, Sir, I *do* believe that I have served my debt to society
and that I should be eligible for parole." Sure, I could have
managed that *without* Megan's help, but it's just so much easier
when you have kids with you.

Traveling with kids also provides a great learning opportunity for
them. Justin, for example, learned how to read maps and project
E.T.A.s on this trip. Megan learned her phone number. And every
kiddie question is *not* merely an annoyance, but an opportunity
to help expand their knowledge:

Q: Where are we?
A: We're in Egypt, Megan. Do you know where *that* is?

Q: What river was that?
A: That was the Amazon River. Do you know where *that* is?

Q: Wow, I can see *mountains*! Are those the Anna-pla ... Appa-lay
... Appalachians?
A: No, dear, those are the Himalayas.
Q: Is that where we're going skiing?
A: Yes -- we're going skiing in the Himalayas.
Q:  Isn't that where Bigfoot lives?
A: Yes, it is. And did you know that he likes to eat small children
while they sleep?

Never pass up an opportunity to further a child's education. :-)

Copyright 1996, 1997 by Vincent Sabio, HumourNet Communications Ltd.
All Rights Reserved. Permission is hereby granted to forward or post "Traveling With Kids," provided that the by-line (above) and this copyright statement are included.

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