With some states about to enter school holidays, we thought it timely to write about road trip mishaps – How I almost killed my toddler with a carrot stick!
I almost killed my 20-month-old toddler on a long drive once. While I was very well-intentioned I did something that brought him reasonably close to death in an area of outback Queensland where they have: a) limited emergency services and b) an extremely low tolerance for stupid people. I’m clearly not the sharpest carrot stick in the lunchbox.
We were four weeks into our 11-month road trip around Australia and the kids had been existing on peanut butter and jam sandwiches on, gasp, white bread for lunch the moment we left the Goat’s Cheese Veil (outer Brisbane). Faced with the not very real risk of scurvy since lychees and chia seeds are hard to get in small outback towns, I was determined to introduce more substance into their daytime diet and did so one ridiculously hot day about an hour out of Winton, Queensland, after we’d visited the Lark Quarry and its mesmerising dinosaur stampede. Enter: the vegetable sticks.
Of course, there was no stopping for a dusty roadside picnic. Apart from the threat of road trains blowing us off the side of the road, there was an even greater hazard to our sanity – flies. The flies in and around Winton in late March were biblical and my husband’s fly tolerance threshold had been reached the night before when we inadvertently ate around 20 each with our steak at the pub. Of course, we could have stopped and supervised the kids eating in the car, but we didn’t because it was extremely hot and our beers back in the camper were ice cold. #qualityparenting
I passed back the carrot sticks and cucumber rounds and there were sounds of happy munching. Not really. They whinged about not having the peanut butter and jam sandwiches for a good couple of minutes first, but soon we were driving along in peace and harmony, basking in every moment of glorious silence and mum-smuggery.
Until that silence was broken by a panicky gagging sound from behind me. Our almost-two-year-old was choking on a piece of carrot. In the time it took my husband to pull over and I to get out, release him from his four-point harness and start banging his back to get the carrot out, I realised a number of things:
1) Carrot is probably not a great raw vegetable for a two-year-old to eat.
2) Eating in the car is probably not a great idea in general.
3) Thank heavens we’d ditched our Vodafone packages for a Telstra mobile so there was at least a snowball’s chance in this hot hell we’d be able to call an ambulance.
4) We were at least a one-hour drive from anywhere resembling a medical facility.
It wasn’t until he started crying that I realised the carrot was out and that I’d probably bruised his ribs with all the frenzied whacking. Understandably, he wouldn’t get back in his seat and we all cried for a few minutes by the side of a corrugated road in the middle of nowhere.
Carrot sticks were off the menu and delightfully soft white bread, peanut butter and jam sandwiches cut up into teeny tiny squares were back on and as we tripped around this amazing country, we heard all sorts of child and food-related horrors happening in the back seats of cars. Perhaps the most pertinent was the one of an ER nurse from Adelaide, whose experiences with very young patients had taught her that eating and cars don’t mix. She wouldn’t allow any form of eating to go on in the car on safety grounds, preferring to stop the car and supervise and get to the destination safely, albeit half an hour late.
Apart from the obvious benefit of saving your interiors from food-related mess, it is just not safe to feed your child in the car. However, for many of us with children and/or a burning desire to reduce the time spent listening to refrains of Are We There Yet on long road trips, not eating in the car seems nigh-on impossible. It keeps them quiet, amused and hopefully not moaning about being hungry the moment you start setting up your gear upon arrival. So if you must feed your children while driving, supervise them and for everyone’s sake: don’t give them carrot sticks!
Safety Tips for Non-Choking-In-The-Car Fun
- Anything liquid, sippy cups and squeezy pouches are great for toddlers.
- No carrot sticks
- For younger children, soft fruits cut up, small pieces of dried foods, cheese sticks and small wedges of vegetable quiche work well.
- Wet foods should be avoided unless you’re into gurneying out the inside of your car; dry foods are
much easier to clean off the back seat.
- If possible, get into the back seat with them and supervise from there.
- Limit the sweet and preservative-laced stuff: there’s nothing worse than kids on a sugar and foods-coloured-green high two hours from your destination!
Lark Quarry is 110 kilometres south-west of Winton, with 65 kilometres of the road being unsealed. The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum is just 24km south-east of Winton on sealed roads all the way.
Words and images Melinda Uys.