Tripping out with the kids

If you’re planning to drive across the country with children aged 10 or younger, let me give you someHighway advice: go and see a psychiatrist immediately. You need help! With a little therapy or medication, you may be able to control this urge to inflict pain on yourself.

I wish I had seen a psychiatrist before my recent 14-hour drive to Edmonton with my three kids, Lekha, Divya, and Rahul, also known as the PASSENGERS FROM HELL.

The trip was partly for business — my wife needed to make a presentation at a conference — and partly for pleasure — the kids were looking forward to having lots of fun, which is why it wasn’t long after she sat in the car that Divya asked the question, “Are we there yet?”

“Not yet,” Lekha said. “Mommy’s still checking if she turned the stove off.”

Divya paused, waited a little while and asked the question again.

“We’re getting closer,” Lekha said. “I just saw the sign at the end of our street.”

In her defense, I should mention that Divya is only 5 and didn’t really have a concept of where we were going, why we were driving such a long distance to visit some guy named Ed Minton.

Many parents have DVD players in their vehicles, so the kids can watch movies during a long trip, movies that, with any luck, will put them to sleep. We decided not to take a DVD player along, partly because we wanted our kids to do some creative stuff on the trip and partly because, like most good parents, we were suffering from brain damage.

Our kids did attempt to be creative –- for a minute or two. They did a little coloring and a little counting. Lekha, for example, counted the number of white cars on the highway, while Divya counted the number of white hairs on daddy’s head.

When they weren’t being creative, they were often competing with each other.

Lekha: “I have the best seat. I can look out of the side window.”

Divya: “No, I have the best seat. I can look out the front window.”

Rahul: “No, I have the best seat. I can see myself in the mirror.”

Divya: “That’s not a mirror, silly. That’s Daddy’s bald spot.”

We wanted our kids to spend part of the trip listening to music, which meant of course that I wasn’t just a driver, I was also a DJ, with hundreds of requests from the backseat:

Rahul: “I want the dog song! I want the dog song!”

Divya: “No, the Mickey Mouse song! The Mickey Mouse song!”

Rahul: “It’s my turn to pick the song!”

Divya: “No, it’s your turn to pick your nose.”

Lekha: “Stop it, Divya. It’s my turn to pick on Rahul.”

We had the most trouble with 3-year-old Rahul, though his desires were rather simple: he wanted whatever his sisters had. If Divya had a toy, he wanted it. If she had a banana, he wanted it. If she had hiccups, he wanted it.

Most of all, he wanted to get his hands on his sisters’ dolls.

Rahul: “I want the doll! I want the doll!”

Me: “Rahul, boys are not supposed to play with dolls.”

Rahul: “I’m not a boy. I’m a girl!”

Lekha: “Look in the mirror, Rahul”

Divya: “Oh no, the mirror’s cracked! Daddy’s head is exploding!”

Rahul: “I want to put Daddy’s head back together again!”

Lekha: “No, I want to do it!”

Divya: “No, it’s my turn this time!”

Photo by jerryfletcher


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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Great humor! Glad I’m childless!

  2. Nel (Kleij) Lindsay says:

    Thanks for giving us a piece of reality. Been there done that so its best to check first with friends when taking on a long distance trip with kids..every one has a different experience and every one can help with a few neat things. Like counting how many trucks what colour they are a licence plate or how many signs along the road and each kid looks at their side of the road it could keep them busy for a worked for us many years ago and then also some stops along the way and change seats as well so all get a turn at the “best” seat..:) so I can see another long trip coming up soon..:) and have fun most of all…a Mom and grandma who’s been there..

  3. VSGopalarathnam says:

    That bit abt. dad’s pate mistaken for a mirror was cute !!

  4. EgyptianGuy says:

    Light hearted but a little bit too short.

  5. Moreeee. This is soooo funny. Give Rahul some toy trucks next time and watch while they all beat the crap out of each other to steal them. That’s why my sisters did to me on road trips.

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