I’m back. The Ladyfriend and I took a road trip and thought it might be fun to bring the Babylady. Yes, fun. Maybe if you have kids you can recognize our first mistake. Apparently, it is widely known that a 3.5 year old on a road trip won’t be fun. Who knew?
I didn’t know. I had no idea. It didn’t cross my mind that she’d be a pain. Sure, I knew it wouldn’t be the same as traveling with my Ladyfriend. I imagined it wouldn’t be exactly relaxing. But I didn’t know I would lose my mind. I didn’t know I was going to be that mom. And say those things.
You see, the Babylady is a cool kid. Sure, she pushes me to my limit, she is 3 after all. But she is pretty amazing. She is happy as can be in the car driving to Portland or Eugene, OR. She’ll hang tight for a full day of errands and schlepping around without complaining. She’ll play by herself. She’ll play with others. She is just a happy, super easy kid. Funny, silly, strong, imaginative, smart and willful. The willful (and stubborn) bit we didn’t factor into our trip.
We were driving from Roseville, CA back to Seattle (*) and stopping 3 nights on the way. I assumed we would just have snacks, toss in some books on CD and music and it would be smooth sailing. That is wrong.
The Babylady took this time trapped in the truck to firmly test out her ability to stand her ground. The sort of (unreasonable) stubbornness found in only a 3-year-old. In the form of screaming the ABC’s nonstop. Unbuckling her seat belt. Kicking the seat. Throwing a snotty hanky over the seat to us and asking us if that was the slimy side. Scratching. Hitting. Saying things like “Or what?” when I asked her to stop doing something. Replying “No I won’t” when we asked her to do something. You get the idea. Not pleasant.
Maddening. Being a parent is hard, anyone will tell you that. The Ladyfriend and I have tried to be really consistent in our messaging. Discussing and coming up with solutions to whatever new phase is showing up. Since the kids change every few weeks, or at least months, generally nothing is too annoying for too long (even if it feels like an eternity). And the increasingly annoying stuff is usually coupled with some new level of amazing awesomeness to counterbalance. It all works out. And the bottom line is that nearly all phases and behaviors can be boiled down to independence or security (love).
In hindsight, we didn’t set it up great. We flew down and got to my parents house at about midnight and therefore got little sleep before she was up having a full day with her cousins that were down there. Followed by another night of little sleep. Then plopped into a new truck, in a new (much more uncomfortable) car seat and taken for a long drive, on curvy roads with a low-grade temperature and full flowing snot. Only to arrive at a crappy hotel, near crappy restaurants, with thin walls and her needing to keep her voice down.
The second day, she vomited near the top of Leggett Pass in California. All over her clothes, shoes, my sweatshirt and the floor of our new truck and her new car seat. Lovely. But who knew she’d get carsick? Not me. She has only thrown up about 4 times in her life.
She kept think it was funny to put her hands where we’d be shutting the door. Her reply to telling her to not do that was “Why not?” Half crazed, I started to say things like “Because if you don’t, you’ll smash your fingers, they’ll break and your hand will fall off. That is why!” Um, really? Ok crazy mom. We never just retort back pure wacky retorts to her so it was odd to hear myself going there.
The car seat unbuckling, which had us pulling over a few times, eventually became “Because if we get in an accident you will go through the window, get really hurt and die. That is why!” Ugh, that one led to a whole line of questioning that went a little something like this: Will you pick me up? Will you be sad? Why will you be sad? Will Mimi be sad? Will the grandparents be sad? Where will I go? See? This kind of response, never, ever generates the response you are after. You just sound nuts and dig yourself into a conversation you weren’t signed up for at the moment.
Usually at home we offer her a choice: stop doing something or lose a “little guy” for the rest of day or a book at bedtime. She had 4 littles on the trip (school-duckie, meow-meow, margot-monkey and backup-piggy in case you were curious) and always gets 3 books at bedtime. She would burn through them all by giving them up as consequences well before lunch. Exasperated when they were all gone and having thought up no real consequences for not following directions I said “Do you want me to just mail your little guys home?” and later “Maybe I should just throw the little guys away?” Seriously? Throw her best friends away? I sounded bonkers. Because when you are saying stuff like that to your 3-year-old, you don’t exactly sound calm.
I am happy to say that she has seemingly returned to her usual state of being. Fingers crossed that a day in preschool is a nice continued return to normal for her. It has been for me.
All this is to say, parenting ain’t all rainbows. In fact she told me this morning she was mad that I didn’t nickname her “Rainbow” when she was little. Sometimes, you just can’t win.
*My parents were gifting us my Dad’s red truck! Yay!