Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Riding in Cars With Kids

South Carolina beach sunrise

In September, we went on vacation.

The anniversary of the day my dad died is hard, and this year my in-laws graciously and wonderfully offered to let us invite my mom along for a week at their place down by the beach. Mom drove herself from Illinois to our house, and when we took off we were split into two parties: Jason went with his dad in his dad’s truck, and my mom and I took the girls in my mom’s car.

My children are excellent at road trips… as long as they take place late at night when they’re too sleepy to kick up much of a fuss.

Turns out that when you leave first thing in the morning, all that "good at road trips" stuff becomes a joke I tell myself to stay sane.

I started out driving, with my mom in the passenger seat.

First Ellie fussed and cried, cried and fussed.

Then Audra started whining.

Then Ellie drifted off, only to be jolted back awake by Audra making what I will generously call “a joyful noise”.

Then Ellie whined while Audra fussed.

Eventually, I pulled off the road and Mom took over driving while I wedged myself into the middle between my two children, who proceeded to use this as a sign to start whine-crying in stereo.
When I was pregnant with Audra, I smugly told myself I would never be that mom who relied on digital devices to make it through a road trip.

An hour into our drive to the beach, Audra had a Leap Pad in hand, episodes of Bubble Guppies playing to soothe her into an entertained stupor, so that I could focus on handing Ellie every single object in the car to look over, inspect, toss over the side of her car seat, and cry about, eventually also including my cell phone.

We ended up stopping approximately three times in the last hour of the drive alone, which was momentarily an improvement (yay! my children aren't crying!) but also much much worse (crap! we're back in the car and my children are crying again!).

By the time we made it into the town the beach house is in, I had sent Jason nine thousand text messages of increasing panic and, eventually, just sent him this photo:

Oh, and then it turned out the GPS was set to the wrong address and, with whine-crying baby and whiny toddler on either side of me, we had to try and figure out what had gone wrong to get where we were supposed to be.

Luckily, correcting the mistake only took two or three minutes, but it was the longest two or three minutes ever.

Thanks to people who essentially live in their golf carts because hey, who needs a car at the beach, that last half mile was infinitesimally slow, and I finally just unbuckled my crying baby from her carseat and held her in my arms while my mom crept at 10 miles an hour behind the happiest, most oblivious golf-cart-ridin' couple I've ever seen in my life.

Judge if you want, but it was the happiest she’d been all day.

We tumbled out of the car, my children and I disheveled, exhausted, and covered in crumbs from the many snacks I had attempted to placate them with.

When we opened the door next to Ellie's carseat, a giant pile of wispy Kleenexes, plastic toys, rejected food, bottles, and other debris clattered to the ground.

A few graham cracker bunnies lay, forlornly, on the concrete.

My mother looked at my husband and said, “They really weren’t that bad.”

I’m not entirely sure my mother experienced the same car ride I did.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Threenager in the Doctor's Office

Audra's three-year well-child visit was a couple of weeks ago. She was understandably nervous about it, as the last time she'd gone to the doctor she'd had to do the finger-stick to get a drop of blood and had lost her ever-loving mind at the resulting tiny speck of red that blossomed on her hand.

Luckily, I skipped that visit and Jason took her, but trust me, I heard all about it from my already-intensely-verbal two-year-old at the time.

Hand to God, that finger-stick is going to be the first thing she tells her therapist about in thirty years.

In any case, I had reassured her up, down, and sideways that the three year checkup didn't even have any shots, so she could go right back to daycare afterwards, they were just going to look and make sure she was doing okay.

We get there and settle into the waiting room, where Audra exhausted every single toy within thirty-five seconds and then spent the next eleven minutes of our wait time talking, seemingly constantly, about Moana and something Ellie had done that morning and how much she likes bananas and Mom Mommy Mom Mom Moooooooom-

She may have a superpower. Her superpower is simply that she doesn't need to breathe as long as she's speaking, she can just keep going forever.

The nurse calls out her name and my daughter suddenly clams up into utter silence, clinging to my leg.

The nurse introduced herself and said, "So what's your name, sweetie?"

Audra stared her right in the eyes and said, calmly, "No."

"Okay!" The nurse said brightly, totally unperturbed. "I see your name is Audra and you're three years old now. Wow! That's pretty grown up. Let's get you over onto this scale to get your weight, there you go, get your shoes off first and your Mommy will help you-" and thus the nurse began a nearly seamless constant stream of commands and banter with my child, who followed her instructions with wide zombie eyes, standing on the scale, holding her arm out for blood pressure, mumbling answers to every question.

It was like watching someone hypnotize a cat.

The nurse kept that lilting, sing-song mind-control up until we were in the exam room and then left us to wait for the doctor. I have got to ask her to teach me how to do that.

For the first time, Audra had to undress from the top up to on the "gown" that snaps up the back.

It didn't occur to me that this was Audra's first time wearing one of those things until I went to put it on her and Audra flipped. out.

"What is that?! I don't like that shirt! I don't like that dress! It's not a good dress! I don't like it! Get it off get it off get it off!"

I managed to talk her into putting it on anyway, and she had mostly calmed down by the time the doctor entered the room.

"Hi!" The doctor said cheerfully. "What's your name, little girl?"

Audra curled behind me, hiding her face in my side. "No," she said into my ribcage.

"No problem," The doctor replied. "I see you're Audra. How old are you now, Audra? Do you know how old you are?"

Audra dug her face in harder.

"NO, my mommy says when people ask I don't know I don't have to answer them!" She insisted.

Well, hey, at least she's been listening to all that stranger-danger stuff, I thought to myself, while answering, "She knows she's three, she's just being shy."

Thus began the least successful doctors' visit either of my children has ever had.

She refused to answer any questions. When asked simply to prove she could speak, she was silent. When asked to open her mouth, she clamped it shut even harder. When asked if she could count, my child who spends half her day obsessively counting nothing at all refused.

When asked about colors, my child who has very strong opinions about them pretended she had no idea what colors even were.

"I promise she's verbal," I kept saying apologetically. "I promise she's fine with mobility. I promise she knows how to run and jump. She knows all her colors, she can count to fifteen, she knows the whole alphabet except for Q, X, and Z and seriously who ever even uses those letters anyway... I don't know why she's being so shy today."

The whole thing culminated with her reacting to the doctor asking politely to look at her ears by beginning to scream-cry as loudly as possible and moan "no, no, no, mommy no, mommy help". Meanwhile I had to hold her down for the examination, which by the way is probably going to be the second thing she brings up in therapy in thirty years.

This girl has been in my care for three years and I've already given her medical trauma.

"Well," The doctor said brightly over my daughter's betrayed, furious wails, "I don't need her to open her mouth anymore, I'm getting a great look at her teeth and her tongue right now! Plus, she's kicking hard enough that I know for sure her reflexes are great!"

We managed to get her to hold still for the stethoscope test, while she sniffled and stared at me with "mommy how could you" eyes and I tried to figure out whether or not I'd ever be allowed near my grandchildren one day, since I was clearly such a traitor.

Finally, the doctor finished up the examination and said, "She's doing just great," over Audra's continued mumble-crying. "Make sure to grab a toy from the basket on your way out for her!"

The mumble-crying cut off like someone had turned off the worst radio station ever, and Audra blinked tears out of her eyes.

"A toy? Is there a toy?" She asked, already getting her mommy-can-I-have-it facial expression prepped and ready.

The doctor laughed. "There, now I know she's verbal, too," She said on her way out the door.

By the time we made it to the checking-out area, Audra's tears had vanished. You would never have known that she had ever cried at all. She was totally and 100% focused on that promised basket of toys.

She picked out one of those "make your own model airplane" toys and I put it together for her while she climbed up into her carseat. She chattered happily all the way back to daycare, all but skipped into her class, and I got back into my car and just sort of sat there, staring at nothing, for a long time.

I headed to work, running through Starbucks on the way because Mommy needed a drink and I just wasn't ready to start in on bourbon at 10:30 in the morning.

While waiting in line, I thought about having to hold my three-year-old down just so the doctor could look into her ears.

"What can we get started for you?" The barista at the register asked.

I replied, "What is the most amount of espresso I can get in a drink before it's probably a bad idea?"

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Every Single Second

It’s easier the second time around, although
I still spend too much time wishing this child
would just slow down for a second
that the two of you would give me a minute
to realize
how quickly you’re headed away from me.

God, how I love that you move independently
to watch you discover a whole world of things
that aren’t yours, I can see you bring
to your mouth crayons and Play-Doh
Can I eat this?
Even when the answer is no, you do your best.

We do our best to keep your mouth from turning blue… again.

You don’t want to be carried as much anymore
You can crawl — or scoot at least
It’s wonderful to see, but baby girl
you'd still fit just fine in the space of my arms
if you’d stop twisting so hard
to get to the floor and discover the world away from me.

I let the mornings and afternoons go by too fast
I don’t take the time, the second time around
to just slow down for a second
stop thinking about work and dinner and juice
so I can just watch you
and your sister giggle at each other.

You both were tiny bundles they placed gently in my arms.

I feel every. single. second. and still
I’ve somehow lost a year or three. You both
keep growing older while I
try to keep up and wish this time around
that we could all slow down.
Of course this is always how it goes.

It's going to be a privilege to watch
my girls learn how to walk safely apart from me.