Divine Secrets of My Ya-Ya-Ya Parenthood
Posted on April 18, 2012
I know this post isn’t as timely as it could be, but it was too hard to type with a straightjacket. I got one hand free, and it seemed to make more sense to hold the wine glass.
See, there’s something about a road trip with two children under age two, a minivan with multiple seating configurations and a shortage of Dunkin Donuts along the way that makes me want to choke myself to death with a puke-covered rag. Or write about and hope someone learns something.
Happy belated Easter, everyone! Now that we’ve all returned to our regularly scheduled programs, let’s pay homage to the weekend that was Emma’s first trip to the beach.
The trip began under the duress of self-imposed strategery. The Husband and I cackled with glee when we arrived at The Perfect Plan to take the kids to his parents’ home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. At the core of the plan was a simple theory: Why, if both children sleep at night and therefore don’t cry or whine at night, surely a six-hour drive will be most peaceful — downright ethereal — if we drive at night.
What a couple of morons we are.
Look, if you have kids, you’ve probably played this game of Flawed Logic Roulette. It’s got to happen to everyone. My hope here, with this painful post, is that I help just one person avoid the back-wrenching, eye-itching, cold-and-clammy-toe-inducing horror that was our road trip.
Let’s start at the beginning. I love my husband. I really, really do. He is kind, he is funny, he is smart and gosh darn it people like him. He thinks big thoughts, plans big plans that often should involve blueprints (but do not), and he loves our children more than his sanity – or mine. He must.
When we decided to take the kids to the beach for Easter weekend, the thought of spending six hours listening to Cherub Charlie sing his “We’re Going to the Beach” song literally made my stomach clench. Possibly, that was a psychological result of experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions the last time I was in the car with him for that long, but if you heard his anthem, your organs may tighten, as well.
It goes like this: “YA-YA-YA-YA-YA-YA-YA-YA-YA-YA-YA-YA!”
Times 18 million. Charlie sticks his thumb in the corner of his mouth like he’s trying to dig out a molar and then chews on that thumb while serenading his perceived captors.
The record is six hours.
That’s because it took us six hours to reach the ocean, and he astutely reconsidered the chorus once he saw his mother’s wild-eyed look toward water deep enough to make it all stop. (I of course was considering throwing myself in the ocean. Tossing a screaming child in with the hopes that the icy water would break his choral concentration would just be irrational. Who thinks of those things.)
So, this time we really thought we had it figured out. I’d work at the office all day, The Husband would work in the garage all day, and by the time the two shall meet, the minivan would be packed, the kids would be bathed and we would be ready to steam off into the YA-YA-YA-YA yonder. That yonder, of course, would soon be filled with silence as both children lapsed into coma-like sleeps. Right?
You already know how this story ends, although let me reassure you everyone lived and no one took an icy plunge.
What would I do differently? Just a few things.
- I would send The Husband to my office for the day and let him deal with meetings and reporter calls and the euphoria that captivates Corporate America on Jeans Day. He is a smart man, and this would allow me to prioritize the packing. Because as much as I know he thought he meant well when he spent the majority of the day configuring two tubs to the metal contraption he attached to the back of the minivan in an evil plot to see how long the backing-up-now siren could blare, in the end we filled it with kids toys and things we deemed “replaceable and dispensable” because he didn’t feel confident these tubs would repel the waters we were likely to endure from the hurricane surely headed our way. In March. LESSON FOR WORKING MOMMIES: Don’t work the day of departure.
- I would spend whatever time necessary to meticulously grind Tylenol PMs into a magic powder to dissolve in the children’s drink of choice. OR, I would take enough myself so no amount of little feet to the head would wake me. (As a passenger, of course.) LESSON FOR EITHER PARENT: If you don’t have medication to induce a coma-like state, offer to travel in the trunk to leave more space up front for kid stuff.
- I would not waste time packing my new Yummie Tummies death trap. I would relax knowing The Husband’s family loves me whether I am svelte or whether I am rolling over the back of the sofa trying to pull down the window shade that was my Yummie Tummie mid-section-contraction-contraption. (I swear it even made the same sound as a 1970′s window shade that suddenly breaks free from whatever magic holds it in place and flaps like a crazed chicken against the window frame.) LESSON FOR WOMEN: Gimmicks that promise to make you appear slimmer than you are really do work because you spend the whole time in a cardio frenzy trying to keep the thing down. Pull out the Oreos and ditch the lycra.
- I would invest in a menagerie of animal puppets and find creative ways to slip Mountain Dew into my husband’s blood stream, because the combination gave us approximately 47 minutes of peace on the drive back. Who knew a monkey puppet singing Madonna’s “Vogue” could yield such joy? Don’t leave home without them. LESSON FOR ANYONE: Marry someone willing to perform puppet shows. Period.
- I would never, ever, ever, EVER in a thousand years suggest we stop by the outlets before heading home. My marathon jaunt into the Nine West outlet and the J. Crew outlet (I will never give up!) equaled enough time for both kids to fill their diapers and master synchronized screeching when Daddy can only be in one part of the minivan at a time. Nabbing two gorgeous pairs of heels I shouldn’t be wearing – even at bargain prices – was not worth returning to find Scream 4 filming in my minivan. LESSON FOR WOMEN: Shopping together on vacation brings joy to NO ONE. Ditch the family and enjoy a few hours alone with your fashionista self. Plus, if you buy something, you can stash it somewhere in with all that kid crap. No one will ever notice!
- I would pack Tupperware. Lots and lots and lots of Tupperware. The Husband’s mom makes killer clam chowder (yes, this from a New England girl) and while we brought home two gigantic jars, I feel confident I wouldn’t have had to cook for a week if I’d packed Tupperware. Two, if I could find all the matching lids. LESSON FOR CULINARILY CHALLENGED: Marry someone whose mom cooks killer clam chowder. If you will drive Charlie in a separate vehicle on our next vacation, I will let you borrow my husband.
- I would have packed the humidifier. The steady drone of its engine might have neutralized the beat band of Emma’s snoring/sighing (she does this throughout the night, deep sleep and all), Charlie’s own snoring and thrashing (made even crinklier on a pack-and-play he wasn’t used to) and The Husband’s own strain of snore. Our bedroom was like a sleep factory – and all the workers were fast asleep, except the forewoman. She was counting humidifiers over her head and wondering if the cats had managed to turn it on… LESSON: Do I really have to spell it out for you? HELLO! Tylenol PM!!!
- I would have contracted a sweet case of Salmonella right before we rode into town. Because while the thought of hugging the bathroom floor for 24 hours is unappealing, working out on the elliptical for 297 miles just to work off the first morning’s breakfast is even less so. LESSON: Go ahead and marry the guy whose mom cooks… but get braces and have them tightened before each visit.
- I would have packed for my husband. Two kids, 37 puking incidents and three T-shirts do not make for an odorless drive home in his one “clean” T-shirt. There’s a reason women overpack. We understand at any moment any part of our bodies could be covered in bodily fluid not originating from our own bodies – AND the temperature may simultaneously shift. (Sorry, honey. I needed to justify my extraordinarily stuffed luggage somehow.) LESSON: If you overpack for your husband, he will always have clean clothes and you will have another place to stash new clothes after your shopping trip, because inevitably he’ll put all his dirty ones in one squished up ball in the corner of your luggage.
- I would make sure we didn’t forget anything that would force us to return after just five miles down the road. Why? Because we rarely see The Husband’s parents, and when we do, the love in their eyes for our children – and their son – is so authentic and deep, it makes my heart ache to watch them say goodbye. Watching it twice is just not fair. LESSON: Marry the guy whose parents really, really love him and your kids. And buy waterproof mascara.
We actually had a lovely weekend, once we arrived at our destination and pried Charlie’s grubby fists from the FAO Schwarz-like display of toys his grandmother presented at 2:30 a.m. How excited was she to see him? It was just pure love to watch (in the wee hours of the morning, through bleary, red eyes, but so sweet nonetheless).
I think we learned a lot about ourselves, our children and our strengths during this trip. I just can’t wait for all four of us to board a plane for Cape Cod this summer…
At least there’s a Dunkin Donuts on every corner up there.