Our family’s most memorable summer road trip occurred when our two daughters were quite young — and quite needy, as it turns out. My wife and I were taking the family to our hometown, a three-hour drive away.
The first two hours went smoothly. My 3-month-old drifted between sleep and blank stares, and my 3-year-old napped before starting to watch a movie. We had recently indulged in a minivan with a DVD player, which was unthinkable a few years previous but I admit was wonderful for family trips. Granted, I had explained to my daughter that the mysterious video machine only worked when we traveled long distances, not during the daily three-minute ride to the grocery store. Somehow, she accepted my logic.
My daughter was watching, on this hot summer day, Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, starring Jim Carrey. Just before the third hour of our trip, I was thinking about the movie’s decibel level. How could Richie Cunningham direct such an obnoxious Christmas remake? But my musings were harshly interrupted by the words every traveling parent dreads: “Gotta go pee-pee! Gotta go pee-pee!” This chant was immediately compounded by an eruption of screams from my infant daughter that seemed to indicate she had not been fed for a week.
Enter panic. I kicked myself for not stopping at the rest area we had just passed. I tried to calculate how much time my daughter’s bladder could buy us, but her tone conveyed imminent urination. So I resigned myself to the prospect of a soaked car seat and an extremely uncomfortable toddler, followed by a lot of work at the next exit.
Then, a small miracle: my wife remembered we had an inflated port-a-potty in the trunk. But we would need to pull over to set it up. Reluctantly, I agreed, and we pulled over and put on our hazard lights.
After some struggle, I managed to set up the potty in the back of the van for my oldest while my wife began breastfeeding the baby. My 3-year-old actually became excited now, since going to the bathroom had become a new adventure. It was hard for me to laugh, though, because just three feet away tractor trailers roared by. As I quickly put a twist-tie around the bag of urine and got back in the van, I just wanted to resume driving.
That’s when the state trooper pulled up behind us.
Enter a new series of anxious questions:
- Can we get a ticket for this?
- Did I remember to bring my new insurance card?
- Might this simply be a hidden-camera headache commercial?
- Does “gotta go pee-pee” qualify as an emergency?
- Which emergency — a toddler’s need to urinate or a baby’s need for breastfeeding — is the better excuse to give the officer?
This last question I asked my wife as the officer approached, and she answered: “Definitely tell him we had to breastfeed the baby.” I was a little puzzled by her confidence, but I took her advice.
“What seems to be the problem?” he asked upon reaching my window.
“Our baby was screaming so we stopped to breastfeed her,” I said meekly, feeling he might scold us for being pushovers. Instead, he simply mumbled “OK” and walked back to his car.
I turned to my wife: “That’s weird. He kept looking down the road as he talked to me. It’s like he didn’t even care why we were stopped.”
“Do you want to know why?” she asked with a smile. “Because I had my breast out and was holding the baby when he was at the window. Men usually look anywhere else but at a breastfeeding woman. I wasn’t even feeding the baby at the time!”
I didn’t know whether to be appalled or impressed. Either way, the rest of the trip was uneventful, though it was awkward to arrive at my father-in-law’s with a bag of urine dangling from my hand.
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