How to Take Your Kids to the DMV

One of the most difficult parts of stay-at-home life is taking your kids on normal errands. Going to the grocery store or Target are big productions, as opposed to single life, when you just went when you wanted, ran in and got out before your meter ran out of time. Now it takes about 15-20 minutes just to get the kids in the car, making sure you have water, snacks and diapers. You search for that cool shopping cart that looks like a race car and has two seats for both kids, otherwise one has to walk, which is another thing to think about while shopping. You pray the whole time that no one has to go to the bathroom, because that is not only an interruption, but getting a shopping cart in the stall and keeping your youngest from playing with the toilets are no easy task...

And so you can imagine that a more difficult task, something arduous for even a single person with loads of time on his or her hands, is nearly impossible with kids. Well, recently we moved to a new state and had to go to the DMV to get our licenses. I learned some hard lessons that day, which I will generously share with you here:

A happy father at the end of a tremendous wait. Ellie took this picture, which kept her entertained while I was doing paperwork.

  1. Come prepared: Bring your normal provisions -- snacks, water and diapers -- but in increased supply. Our DMV visit this day took a whopping four hours, which we were hardly prepared for. Bringing an iPad or Kindle Fire for something to watch, with some books and toys is also a necessity.
  2. Pick the right DMV: This was our biggest mistake. We went to a DMV where we had had good experiences at in the past, where people were even happy sometimes. It had good reviews online and had been a pleasant place to visit, all things considered. Well, that was two-to-four years ago, and I guess in that time something has changed. As I mentioned, what I thought would take a couple hours turned into four, and this whole thing was highly avoidable thanks to the internet! In Los Angeles (and I'm sure in lots of cities nationwide), you can see live updates of DMV wait times on their website. After standing in line for an hour, we decided to take a look and realized that another location just twenty minutes up the road had a 45 minute wait posted, while ours had 2 hours 45 minutes! Why didn't we look beforehand?! I am usually not a proponent of technology, but this instance had me floored. Look ahead if you can.
  3. Again, pick the right DMV: I listed this twice, not only because it is crucial, but because this particular DMV had a huge park right across the street. Given our wait time (we received number 120 when 32 was currently being served), we went across the street and played for an hour to keep the girls entertained. You may not have a lot of choices in your city, but even mid-size towns often have multiple DMVs available. Sometimes a drive across town can make all the difference, and a DMV located right next to a coffee shop can provide some much-needed relief during a long wait.
  4. Make friends: The girls made friends with a girl that kept them entertained for a little while. Later, when they were starting to lose it for thinly stretched patience, talking with the folks around us made it a little better, and again kept the girls entertained. The older I get, the more I see that connecting with the people around us is the most important thing we can do, even if it is just for a quick minute at the DMV.
  5. Go as a family if you can: Thankfully my wife is a teacher and off for the summer, so we were able to all go together. This enabled us to take turns with the kids while the other waited in line. If we were unable to do this, I have no idea how we would have made it! Keeping two restless children in line is difficult for twenty minutes, much less four hours! If you don't have this luxury...God help you. Maybe hire a babysitter.
  6. Don't give up: As we neared the end, time seemed to slow down. Each number that passed, bringing us to our own glorious resolution crawled on slowly, like an earth worm across hot pavement. Would we make it? Would the kids make it? They were reaching their limit, acting wild and dancing around, running into walls (literal and figurative) and people -- this was as far as they could go. Then, just before our number was called, Ellie had to go to the restroom! What if they called our number while she was going?! What bad timing! Thankfully, we were together, so this wasn't a big deal, but the thought of waiting four hours and then missing my number sounded like a nightmare I would rather not experience.
  7. Come prepared: This is written again because preparation included not just snacks and water, but all of our documents! A family next to us were missing some documents, and so their half-day of waiting was all for naught. Can you imagine this?! Waiting four hours only to be told you don't have what you need! Look online and figure out everything you can about what you are doing to prepare! Bring back-up documents, extra IDs, fill out forms beforehand, anything you can do to expedite the process will help both you and the fatigued DMV workers. 
At the end of it all, we left with two California licenses, thank God. And though we all may have lost some form of sanity, we made it out alive. Follow these steps, and you too may just have the same result.

The park that saved us also had a skatepark attached. Sadly, I had no board...