23 May

Oh, the Places You’ll Never Go!

I realize now I dished out a lot of potentially bad advice to new and expectant parents for several years–not on purpose and with sadistic, BTDT glee but because Wombat was a ridiculously easy baby/toddler/preschooler and we simply had no idea. I mean, we had an idea that he was easier than other kids in a lot of the traditional OMG-having-a-baby-is-SO-HARD ways, but we had no idea what it was like to actually parent those other kids, and now that we do, I imagine there have passed under the breaths of a handful of misguided-by-me friends some choice, grade-A words as they attempt to, for instance, enjoy a nice, calm, quiet family meal in public, only to realize much to late that yeah, nope, not gonna happen.

If it makes anyone feel better, as penitence I curse my own name when we let foolish optimism override experience and good sense and find ourselves thinking we can enjoy a nice, calm, quiet family meal in public. When we went out to eat on Mother’s Day, Wombat managed to spend most of the time sitting on things that were neither his butt nor his chair, and Fox had to be removed from the scene no less than five times, for offenses ranging from violence with and toward his crayons, illegal booster-seat acrobatics, and violating the local noise ordinance. Happy Mother’s Day to me! Count your blessings on one hand and your failings on the other!

Now, I’ll still go on record saying that it’s important for us to go out to restaurants so we can teach our kids how to behave in restaurants, rather than just avoid the challenge and the lesson by staying home, even though sometimes, sigh, we probably should just stay home. (It helped that the place on Mother’s Day was practically empty, although I count myself in the number of offended patrons, which perhaps skews the data.) I guess my point is that just because some smug friend with an easy first baby tells you you can do things with kids like travel, eat out, and attend music festivals and sporting events doesn’t mean you should, or that you will want to, or that you will have a good time doing it.

My revised stance is this: You can take your kids to restaurants, but you might not enjoy the experience, and you might not even be able to eat. Definitely order something you can manage with one hand, a lapful of wriggling babyfat, and peas in your hair. Maybe eat before you go. And do a shot.

I was thinking about this because our big summer plans were to attend a family reunion in Michigan for eight or nine days, and although the chances of that happening dropped like a myotonic goat when we added up the cost of flights and car rental and hotel rooms (no, this family of four is not sleeping on the couch in your cousin’s basement), the real kicker was adding up the hours and hours (and HOURS and HOURS, on into star-streaked eternity) of travel it would take to get us to the appropriate intersection of threads on the Michigan mitten. Twenty-four hours of travel is a lot for anyone, and I can only think of two people for whom it would be worse than for a five-year-old and a two-year-old: their parents.

But we took a bath last Sunday!

So, in the interests of not orchestrating our own rapid mental deterioration via “vacation,” we’re not going. And it’s sad and I’m bummed, although *ding* not as sad and bummed as I would be if we did go, only to realize too late it was the Worst Decision Ever and we didn’t have the clout to make the pilot turn the plane around. I mean, YOUR toddler would probably never take advantage of thirty seconds of parental inattention to strip down to his nubies and streak the aisle of the aircraft while his brother presses for detailed answers to personal questions posed of strangers in surrounding seats, but past experience tells me mine might. Seriously, life with [these] two kids often feels like marathon avoidance of what the online community would call, with a cutesy little nose-wrinkle, “bloggable moments.” As for myself, I feel–contra the prevailing trend to chase these disasters and then use them to forge connections through shared humiliations–much better when I end the day with zero mortifying-in-the-moment-but-hilarious-in-retrospect stories to report.

What use is surviving to tell the tale if the tale itself is oppressively boring? I don’t have an answer for that, but it’s been forty-six hours since my kid yodeled into the echo chamber of the indoor swimming facility, “MOM, I SAW YOUR FART BUBBLES!” and the way you all just took a step back makes me think I didn’t earn any camaraderie points just now.

In closing, here is my new, improved, updated-with-the-wisdom-of-experience, incontrovertible advice to new and expectant parents: Enjoy the blissful two years of blaming your own farts on the baby because once they can talk, you can NEVER FART AGAIN.

By    6 Comments    Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries


  • I am here to tell you this: it gets better.

    Our first two kids were JUST like how Fox sounds and taking them, well, anywhere, just SUCKED so hard. We never ate out, never went on vacations, never did nothin’ because it was always just an expensive exercise in dashed expectations and broken dreams. I had friends who would take their toddlers out to a nice restaurant and they would sit in their high chair and gum some cooked vegetables for an hour while the parents chatted. THAT WAS NOT MY EXPERIENCE. And it was soooo disappointing and I felt like we were failures.

    Now that they are older, though, and I have the hindsight to realize that they were extra tough kids and that it was not my fault they were hideous in public, I can assure you that it does get better. Now that they’re (almost) 8, 6, and 4, we can go out for a meal and it’s not stressful and messy and embarrassing. We took a three-hour plane ride and I barely heard a peep from them, so entranced were they by the mini TVs in their seats and the pretzels they were chomping on. It was fine. So different from when I flew with just Avelyn when she was 15 months. It was a mother-effing NIGHTMARE. So bad. Traumatic for all parties.

    I am just hoping you can trust me that it won’t always be so hard. Even the hardest little beasts of children do eventually learn their manners and how not to ruin Mother’s Day. I had to give myself permission to just not be the family who travelled or ate out for, oh, six years or so. But now we can! And I savor the experience that much more after a half-decade of desperate longing.

    You are doing a great, great, GREAT job with those boys of yours. Just so you know.

    • Thank you for this! I keep reminding myself that just as we grew out of the restrictions of having a newborn we’ll also grow out of the restrictions of having a toddler, but still it’s so much harder with Fox because the only toddler I’ve ever parented was a (mostly) calm, respectful toddler who grew into a (mostly) calm, respectful kid, so all I can think it that Fox will always be batshit. (Holy long sentence, Batman!) Even if it doesn’t turn out to be true, it would probably be good for me to think of his bad behavior as a function of his age more than of his personality.

  • Ditto to Amanda, especially now that I have a kid in MIDDLE SCHOOL. (How did THAT happen?) My kids were “good” kids, but little kids are antsy and whatnot. One trick for going out for dinner that we would do was to call in our order and have it ready for a certain time. We would arrive, sit down, and eat. None of this thirty-minute-wait business, while kids ran wild.


  • Hi, friend! In good company–oh how you are!

    Cormac is turning out to be a rather SPIRITED child and I can already see that our fancy dinner/exotic trips days are over…for my own sanity’s sake.

    This just summed up how I feel about all outings now:

    Definitely order something you can manage with one hand, a lapful of wriggling babyfat, and peas in your hair. Maybe eat before you go. And do a shot.

  • This is why almost every time I think, “Maybe we should just go out to eat tonight,” I end up making scrambled eggs instead. Because I would rather eat scrambled eggs at home than stand at attention next to a restaurant table trying to keep my children within some bounds of acceptable public behavior. Literally stand: my younger son refuses to sit in a booster or high chair, so he kneels on an adult chair and I have to stand there to keep him from climbing on the table or grabbing all the knives within reach or falling off the chair or something.

    So not relaxing.

    I have this argument with my husband all the time, though, about things you CAN do with children and things I WANT to do with children. Yes, his mother took her four-month-old baby and four-year-old son to Saudi Arabia so she could teach English there, so it CAN done. But would I do choose to do that? HELL NO. Minimizing stressful situations, whatever they may be for every individual, is sort of the name of the game in parenting. For me, anyway.

  • Aw. 24 hours sounds like SO MUCH. We are embarking upon that this summer, tho S will ‘only’ be 9 months old and I hear it gets much, much worse when they are mobile (I’m also probably flying back with her alone which, waaa! I can’t even think about it right now.). I think what I’ve learned so far in my extremely limited, one-child experience, is that I can do SOME things but not ALL. And actually the reality that I can still do some is way more than I even anticipated! Part of that is living in Morocco and all the limitations that come with that, but maybe my expectations were so low that getting out all three of us for a coffee is like … yipppee! It’s not a huge deal! If we have another kid, though, I know everything will change 100% and life as I knew it for sure will be over.

Have at it!

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