Car Picnic: Including a New Sibling

car picnic
©Brett Jordan via

“Blake, we’re going to have a car picnic.” “Car picnic?” Blake (four years old)asks, confused. “Yes, a car picnic is where we order food, find a comfy spot, and eat and drink it in the car.”

On our way back from Blake’s Kidstrong program, we always stop to pick up dinner at McDonald’s. It’s not fancy, but a little protein after that hour of exercise can’t hurt, has been my logic.

Now that we added baby Titus to the mix, we often need to stop to feed him or calm down on the way home. He isn’t a big fan of the car seat yet. One time, just eight minutes from home, he was so done with the car and screaming so loudly that I pulled into a church parking lot, where I cried a little myself as I fed him. We were all hungry for dinner, but Titus needed his first.

Blake is taking this new, much slower-paced world in stride, for which I’m thankful. Usually, I think of things to make our stops or detours for emergency blowout changes fun, like playing our favorite playlist or asking him questions that lead to deeper topics of discussion.

On this day, I’m trying to think of a way to make a dreary rainy day stop for McDonald’s fun and baby-friendly. We used to just drive through or mobile order without a full stop, but with Titus’ feeding schedule and disdain for long car trips, we will have to make food pickup into a full-hour process. Car picnic sounds way more fun than, “We have to sit and wait while your brother feeds.” Also, we’ve been implementing the don’t blame the baby strategy from Big Little Feelings, and it’s been a success so far.

To be fully transparent, we were on the fence for years about having a second child. Life had challenges to tackle. But finally, a reason that persisted was the lessons that one learns from having a sibling. Suddenly, the world shifts from two parents focused on that one child to splitting time between two. The older sibling learns to see their sibling’s needs and to think of them, too. I was blessed to have eight younger siblings. Growing up with so many littles around helped me consider their needs and learn to relate to most people, as they each had their own personalities, even as tiny humans. I would not trade a single one of them. My husband and I both cherish our siblings and purposed that we wanted that relationship for Blake, too.

Blake is old enough to fully experience the changes that happened this year with having a baby brother. He remembers the way life was, but he’s usually open to this new reality where he shares the spotlight. We park, and as we wait for our mobile order, I pick up Titus and feed him while inviting Blake to come up and sit in the passenger seat. Beaming with pride at this “big kid” seating upgrade, Blake climbs over, and we chat about Kidstrong.

When the meal comes, Blake proclaims his love for car picnics in between the tiny bites of nuggets that I pull apart and separate to cool off for him.

I then realized that I had forgotten my food. Titus has food intolerances, which could fill its own post. It’s been a whole ordeal, but basically, I can’t eat any dairy, eggs, or soy, a.k .a. most processed foods. Ignoring my hunger, I’m happy that my kids are happy. Juggling both kids can feel like I’m on horseback but riding astride two horses at once. One is a long-legged cantering mare, and the other a small pony with little strides. As you can imagine, it’s a bumpy ride. Sometimes I fall. Often, I’m hungry and cranky.

I close my eyes and listen to the raindrops hitting the windshield, Titus swallowing his milk, Blake slurping a milkshake, and the trans-Siberian Orchestra playing Wizards in Winter, Blake’s favorite band at the moment. This is parenting two. I’m thankful that the car picnic is a success.


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