Parenting Ain’t All Rainbows: The Road Trip

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.

Agate Beach Patrick Point State Park grow and resist parenting roadtrip post

Agate Beach at Patrick Point State Park. The Babylady hiked down and back up exclaiming "My legs are so strong!"

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.

Agate Beach Patrick Point State Park grow and resist parenting roadtrip post

Happily hiking down to the beach

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.

Agate Beach Patrick Point State Park grow and resist parenting roadtrip post

Playing with rocks.

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).

Agate Beach Patrick Point State Park grow and resist parenting roadtrip post

Beautiful rocks, pebbles, agates and more

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.

Avenue of the Giants redwood trees grow and resist parenting roadtrip post

Redwood trees are amazing!

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.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park  Smith River grow and resist parenting roadtrip post

The Smith River is completely amazing. I can't wait to go back and camp when it is warmer and go swimming. So clear!

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.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park grow and resist parenting roadtrip post

Climbing up from the Smith River

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.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park grow and resist parenting roadtrip post

She loved the clear water, picking up rocks and seeing tadpoles

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!

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17 Responses to Parenting Ain’t All Rainbows: The Road Trip

  1. Iron McKroll says:

    Sorry it was such a hard trip for you all! I liked the juxtaposition of the beautiful photos with the frustrating stories- just like parenting often is for me! I find that many times I do something new as a parent that I feel loss for the way we used to be able to do stuff, before the baby. I don’t like change much and I love vacations so that one is particularly hard for me every time we go. Like it’s fun to look at the lights along the path at the resort for hours on end, but sometimes I want to go hiking instead. Sending you lots of love as you settle into routines at home!

    • Too true. There is certainly a sense of loss that comes with parenting. I don’t know why more people don’t admit that. There is lots of awesomeness. And lots of loss, important loss that somehow we are meant to feel guilty for mourning.

  2. Memaw Elise says:

    Wow, that one made me laugh! They do get our numbers very quickly and know which buttons to push, especially when you can’t reach them easily. As grandparents we still think she is the most adorable, smart kid in the world!

  3. Shae says:

    I used to throw up on those windy roads, too. Sometimes still want to. I’m glad you all lived to tell these tales. Oh. And I think everyone should have a back-up piggy. 🙂

    • Back-up piggy is only the start =) She has 3 identical ducks: (duckie, school duckie and dirty duckie), 2 pigs (piggy and backup piggy), 2 cats (the meow-meows…though one might now be called rainbow and the other polka-dot. I’m unclear), 1 monkey (margot monkey), 1 hippo (hippo), a lamb puppet (lamb chop) and an ancient baby beans of jen’s. Together they are “the little guys” or “littles.” (a name that makes me shudder, but whatever…)

      The roads would have made me vomit too if I hadn’t been driving. Actually, I cycled from Grants Pass to SF years ago and now seeing the roads again I’m more shocked I’m still alive. Wow.

  4. Meg, I’m crying at my desk with laughter. The way you told this story was so funny. Thanks for allowing me a window into your road trip with honesty and humor!! Sorry it wasn’t as you imagined, but I’m glad you wrote it down because you’ll appreciate it even more when time fades some of the frustration. You’re a great story teller!

  5. Stacy says:

    Oh my goodness, Meg. I don’t know what to say except this post is so well written. Kinda makes me appreciate my single self…I don’t always feel that way. 😉

  6. Traveling Mommy says:

    What can I say – (as her Memaw Mary in CA) Lucy was sane when she left here! I had to laugh – she is such an enjoyable child – full of spunk! I love the pictures of her exploring – you are instilling in her such a love of the nature and of all things around her! This is so important! We can’t wait to see her this weekend!

  7. Michele says:

    “Because if we get in an accident you will go through the window, get really hurt and die. That is why!” I have used that one, just a couple of weeks ago – LMAO! I do not ever willingly travel with a 3.5-yo – I still have scars on my arm from the scratches Samantha gave me in the Denver airport 4 years ago. And of course Zoe is trying my last nerve just about every day – you’re lucky your Babylady is generally easygoing, mine are anything but! 🙂

  8. clubkitty says:

    Oh, I’m so glad I’m not alone. This sounds like every day with my 3-1/2 year old. Ok, she’s not the spawn of Satan. She’s a normal 3-1/ 2 year old. Phew!

  9. Katie says:

    We drove down to AZ with my parents in February for a vacation and the drive down was SO HORRIBLE that if Isa hadn’t settled down after our first day down there, I was prepared to buy us plane tickets to fly home ASAP. Thankfully she decided to start sleeping at night and that made everything in the daytime better as well. Oddly enough, the drive back up was peachy-keen. Gotta love preschoolers. 🙂

  10. Sacha says:

    I had a very direct conversation with Finn when he unbuckled his car seat and stuck his head between us in the front seat as we were zipping down 99. It involved things like, “you could get a head injury and you will different for the rest of your life. You could hurt your spine and not be able to walk, or run, or play. You could go to the ICU and they will stick needles in your arms. You could be in the hospital for a long, long time. Mommy and mama would cry every. single. day. You could die.” He did tell us that we could get another boy and name him Finn, but he also has never gotten out since then. I have no problem pulling out the big guns if I have to. It’s serious.

  11. Inder says:

    I just got back from a trip to Denver to visit my BFF and her family, including her very precocious and verbal daughter who is 2 months younger than Joe but has the cognitive abilities of a 4 year old, right? And I brought Joe, but not my husband, aka, partner in parenting. Holy guacamole, I am exhausted. My speech delayed, highly physical little boy spent the whole time trying to wack this cute, smart girl over the head like a caveman! Her parents were not used to this sort of thing, and I had to keep my eyes peeled watching for when he would wind up to pitch a heavy object in her direction. And then there was the flight home, when he refused to sit his butt in the chair. It was actually a totally awesome trip, and I’m sure I’ll only remember the good things … one day. In the meantime, I’m enjoying being back at work. Yep, you heard that right.

    • Inder says:

      Oh yeah, and the little girl kept asking plaintively, “Why did Joe hit me? Is he mad at me?” I had to work hard to resist the urge to say, “Because he’s being a little jerk.”

  12. Pingback: Top Posts of 2011 | Grow & Resist

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