kids

"No. We are not there yet." In vigorous praise of family road trips and all their little rituals.

McDonalds
Thanks to our brand partner, McDonalds

Being pulled out of bed in the murky dawn. Hurriedly dressed while there’s still an edge in the air.

Whispering (inexplicably, the whole house is up) “Is it today? Is it today?”

“Yes, it’s today. Come on, hurry up.”

The car is so full there’s barely room for a tiny bum on a crowded seat. A messy head is squished happily up against bed pillows, the doona is folded under feet. A giant cuddly toy sits on the esky between two excited children in the back seat, and a bike wheel’s protruding somewhere near an ear.

“Are we going now, are we going now?”

“Yes, we’re going now. Hold on, your dad’s just checking we’ve locked up.”

Is this a scene from my childhood, or my children’s? It’s hard to tell. It could be both. It is both.

“Hold on. Did we leave the heater on?”

A lot has changed in two generations. Sat nav. Screens the back seat. Podcasts in the front.

But some things, some things have not.

Like: “Are we there yet?”

Ah. The road trip.

There’s a turning point in every family road trip where the excitement turns to frustration. The comfy clutter in the back seat – at first a jumble of novelty – is now just a mass of irritating discomfort. The power’s out on the iPad and a little brother has been teased until he can be teased no more. He’s started kicking.

And that’s the moment when any savvy road-tripping parent knows to start building up to the big reveal – The Stop.

There are special rules for road trips. Things that you don’t do every day - when you're not all huddled together in an over-stuffed tinbox, hurtling towards a change, whether it's just a weekend away down the coast or the full January camping song-and-dance - are perfectly acceptable on the highway.

Bad singalongs. Endless games of "Would you rather?" A favourite at our place at the moment: "Swim the length of a pool with a saltwater crocodile, or swallow a bee?" Well, kids, I hate to tell you, but those two threats were not created equal...

The sharing of information also carries a different weight on the road trip.  A lack of eye contact makes disclosure easier, less frightening. The car-conversation is a tactic long-employed by mothers who want to know what's going on with that Elvis boy at school? Why is nothing changing about your Maths marks?

And, how many tiny toy soldiers can you fit up your nose?

Nope, the rules do not apply on road trips. Then, or now.

Which brings us to food. To be specific, road-trip food.

The Macca's stop has become a ritual for my children. The thing they're asking about as they're pulling their hoodies on over their pyjamas and climbing into the car. The thing they're asking for as soon as the first flush of excitement pales after the first hour or so of the journey falls behind us.

And who can blame them? The golden arches are a treasured roadside prize every now and then. And not just for them.

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Who can fault a playground where pent-up kids can slide off some of the tetchy energy they've been accumulating in the back?

Who can resist a much-needed and delicious cappuccino?

And which small child doesn't want to get their sticky paws on the Happy Meal?

It was exactly the same when I was the tiny person being clipped into the back seat. The mystery of the box of my very own: The toy inside. The drink that was perfectly sized to be mine and mine alone. The fooooood. Yes, the Happy Meal is a glorious treat for a little person. And now it's even more so.

Gone is the binary choice between nuggets and burger. Now our kids - unlike our young selves, dipping sticky fingers into sweet and sour sauce in the back seat - can choose options including grilled chicken bites (which by the way is 100 percent Aussie chicken breast fillet), a wholemeal chicken snack wrap and grape tomatoes to make their treat meal healthier.

And there's a pouch of Yoplait Petit Miam strawberry yoghurt that saves a supermarket stop for the inevitable later snack. That's if I don't steal it for myself.

McDonalds
Sshhh, don't tell the kids. Image: Supplied.

And they say life doesn't get better.

Holidays are a time of rituals that separate you from the daily grind of "where are my shoes?", "brush your teeth", "do your homework," and "What's for dinner?"

And the Macca's trip is a tiny ritual that eases the burden of the "Are we there yet?" Every single time.

The only better bit of a road trip?

The turning of the map as you find your destination. The step out of the car. The kids tumbling out, followed by the pillows, the doona, the cuddly toy and the esky.

"Are we there yet?"

"Yes, yes we are."

And, exhale.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner, McDonalds

McDonalds

There’s a lot to love about our new healthier range of Happy Meal options. You and your little ones will love our new Grilled Chicken Bites, Juicy Grape Tomatoes, Wholemeal Chicken Snack Wraps and Yoplait Petit Miam Yoghurt Pouches! It’s a Happy Meal that makes you happy too.

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