Getting Punched on Black Friday Beats a 15-Hour Drive With Four-Month-Old Twins

A new dad recounts his family’s first road trip.

We left with an escort, my dad and a sister attending to help us get out the door. Jack and Eli had been fed, bundled into swaddling blankets and eased into a semi-stupor. Now they were about to undergo a big first in their lives: road trip. Nine hours, forty-five minutes, from Philly to Liberty Township, Ohio, a suburb north of Cincinnati. The destination: my in-laws, for Thanksgiving. The enterprise demanded the cover of night, not because it was a secret but to maintain some hold on hope: that the boys, four months old, would sleep; that we would actually get where we were going.

That last part may sound oddly paranoid. But thus far, I’ve found parenthood to be a prescription for paranoia. So much can go wrong. And a road trip seemed to magnify all those anxieties tenfold. Visions of us, my new family, wrapped in hot metal in a wreck on the highway. Or my twins, crying throughout the night, their voices slicing our brains into cross-sections of pain and anxiety. Stopping to feed them four times and arriving after 15 hours in the car. Us, stopped after sleeplessness caused me to weave around on the road like a drunk. And me, subsequently appearing in an open file at the department of health and human services.

“You’ve got this,” my sister said to me, just before we hopped into the car. “You’re going to do this and feel like ‘Hey, we can do anything.’”

Somewhere in Pennsylvania, in the middle of the night, when we stopped for a feeding, Jack threw up all over a rest station’s floor. As I looked at the big, off-white pools of milk and spittle, I knew every lost ounce made it more likely we’d need to stop again before our destination, sooner rather than later.

We broke a lot of laws. We sped. Each of us, when acting as passenger, pulled off our seatbelt and sat on our knees, straining to hold pacifiers in each boy’s mouth. On the way out, I got so tired that I repeatedly slapped myself as I drove and when that stopped working I started pinching my neck. We were a hazard to ourselves and others but no one got hurt. When we arrived in Ohio and then back home, my wife and I shared a couple of hugs so filled with relief and happiness that I’ll never forget them. We also emerged from the experience with some advice to share with parents contemplating a trip with new little people on board.

Go: First, any stress and tension we felt was worth the reward of seeing the boys meet their maternal relatives. Most parents think their children are super cute. But of course, ours really are, so it’s only right for us to share them with loved ones.

Food: Choose wisely. Bread, meat, anything heavy on the stomach will encourage sleepiness. Pack little baggies of raw vegetables—crunchy, and light, but sustaining.

Use That Rest Stop: We saw a sign on the turnpike, declaring the upcoming travel plaza would be the last for 70 miles. But even though the babies were due to eat, they were asleep in a moving car and we decided to keep going. Oops. The boys woke up a minute later. Lesson: Don’t get too ambitious. It took us 15 minutes to find a safe place to pull over on the side of the road and our boys cried with hunger the whole time.

Help: Ask a family member to come over as an extra hand before you go. They can hold a baby while you pack the car, or vice versa.

Parents of twins: If breastfeeding, bring bottled breast milk for the rest stop. The chairs at those fast-food joints are not conducive to a big breastfeeding pillow.  Also, for any parent, if planning to use a breast pump on the road, bring extra fresh batteries.

Finally, a benediction for parents as they travel: May your babies always spit up on someone else’s floor, and may that floor be tile.