Tips for Parents Stranded by Car Naps

kid in car seatAs a toddler, my daughter had to be in serious motion to fall asleep at naptime. Long, sustained, and fast motion.

I know, the car nap is probably not the best idea for a host of reasons, especially with the really small ones. But a desperate dad is a desperate dad.

When she was a baby, I could do it on foot, walking quick enough in the Baby Bjorn so that she'd slowly lose the power to hold up her head (though I'd have to check a mirror or shoe store window to make sure she was out).

But as a toddler it took a car. It was like the DeLorean in Back to the Future. Hit a sustained 88 mph (in my case it was more like 58) to go nuclear and reach the desired zone. We didn't have Libyan terrorists firing at us, but at times it felt like it.


Then, after wasting loads of gas, polluting the air, and putting us both in freeway danger just for a little peace, a quiet street, and then ... two hours of mind-numbing boredom.

Some folks can park right next to the house or in the garage and have different options. But stranded with nothing to do, I and my fellow caretakers decided to use the time for self improvement and fulfillment. So when your child is napping in the car and you don't want to move her, here are some tips.

  • Try Audio Books: It was here that I broke my lifelong aversion to books on tape, and stopped being annoyed by those reading voices. I found that a voice reading a dull adult novel helped lull the tot, then soothed me after she was out as I eased the seat back. I got through all of the Harry Potter books this way. Though I did wake the daughter with my sniffly weeping when (spoiler alert!) Dumbledore died.
  • Learn a Foreign Language: Mandarin and Italian await you! Like the audio books with more practical value and less crying. Also may seep into your child's dreams and take hold. We do crazier things for their development. 
  • Take Up Knitting: A simple bag, a pair of needles, and a few skeins of yarn in the trunk make for hours of obsessive, quiet pleasure. My extended family was all decked out in beautiful scarves after a season of daughter-napping and wife-knitting.
  • Meditation: As we learn in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the Buddha is everywhere, not just in fields of lotus. (Does lotus grow in fields?) That includes the driver's seat of your Camry. Take up your seated mountain pose and be one with the roadside.
  • Athletics: This may seem the strangest of the bunch but it's possible. A soccer-obsessed friend had a tiny ball and he'd stand next to his car during nap time and try to keep it aloft for hours. I had a single golf club I would take out to swing. And for real fitness, old-fashioned jumping jacks are all the rage now, and you can do most standing yoga poses about anywhere. You could also play with a hacky sack if you're 20, in college, and it's 1992.
  • Nap Yourself: I never did this one because it just scared me too much. I worried that car, baby, and clothes would somehow all be stolen from under me while I slept. But if you're so inclined ....
  • Do Errands!*: It's also a great moment to just leave the window cracked, hang up your "No Baby on Board" sign, and do some quick grocery shopping, get a haircut, or visit with friends inside Starbucks.

* Do not do this one, you monster.

What do you do if you're stuck with a car-sleeping child?

Image via kainr/Flickr

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