Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How I learned to love my demon baby

Over the past weekend I went to visit my sister in her new home in Alexandria, Virginia. I decided to take my 2.5 year old Charlotte because my husband couldn’t come on the trip and it would be easier to have her travel with me. While we do a lot of traveling as a family this was only my second time to fly solo with her and the first was when she was under a year old. Flying with a toddler has its own set of challenges but then add in flying stand-by, bringing a car seat and having to carry on all your bags because of said stand-by travel status…well you get the idea. Did I mention my child is also fondly referred to in my household as the exorcist baby?

Scared for me now?

You see, I don’t have an angel baby. My friends have angel babies. My friends have angel children who like to sit still and play nice and never cry. Me, I have a child who gets frustrated easily. One who screams bloody murder if she doesn’t want to do what I ask her to do and also…did I mention….gets herself so upset she throws up. Hence the exorcist part. Ever since she was a newborn she was a challenge. She liked to be held all the time, she liked to be held by ME all the time I should say, OH and she threw up. Constantly. When I traveled with her solo the first time luckily she was nursing and I could nurse her to sleep. She rode in a car seat and stroller that I could easily manipulate and gate check. She didn’t need to be constantly entertained and didn’t have a meltdown if the Ipad wouldn’t work. She could nap most anywhere making an all-day outing accessible and she could sleep in a pack n’play. Friends, if you are going to travel then do it while they are little and on your lap and still free….trust me.

Taking a child anywhere can be difficult. Taking a child to DC to stay at your sister’s house that isn’t exactly kid proof is a little trickier. My sister bought her a stroller for the trip when I arrived yet Charlotte had to be bribed to sit in it for longer stretches. Otherwise she wanted to walk…and not hold my hand of course through downtown traffic. Bribes had to be given in the form of dum dums and Masha and the Bear videos. I love whoever created Dum dum lollipops. Thank you for your service to me and my sanity. For how many restaurants she sat in and happy hours she sat through I must say Charlotte did amazing. Yet, being around my friend Lisa’s daughter just solidified that I did indeed have a difficult child. While her daughter was a year younger, she was far more content and less whiney than Charlotte although they were just as on the move as one another.

Which is all to say this is the trip that showed me how much I love my exorcist baby. I really do. I know it’s me judging from the outside, and I’m sure no one’s children are perfect always but I realized a few things. I will probably never have the child who will sit quietly while I drink coffee. I won’t have the daughter who wants to sit in a chair and color while I eat dinner. I will probably never know what it’s like to not have her freak out on an airplane or have her climb all over me at the worst times. Charlotte, I realized is a strong, independent little girl with a fierce love of me that extends to hand holding while we nap together and grabbing my face to kiss me repeatedly. Her actions over the trip taught me enormous patience. Her wanting to run through crowds and restaurants gave me an excuse to run and skip and kick through leaves as well. I realized the world is not about sitting still and being quiet always…it’s about wearing your feelings on the outside and sometimes letting them come out your eyeballs.
I loved watching Charlotte play with everyone from her aunt and uncle to their friends and my friends. I loved seeing her eat ice cream until she was covered in it and wearing the same skirt over and over because she liked the “stars.” I enjoyed walking past food trucks and buying her treats just because they delighted her eyes and changing her diaper at the Lincoln monument just because she wouldn’t walk a step further until I did. I once thought my parents embarrassed me when I was younger. Now I just see it’s karma for all the times we embarrassed them. Kids are loud, wild, carefree and hopelessly in search of fun and imagination and that’s the way we were meant to be.
So yes, I have a demon baby. Chad and I often joke about it, but friends its true. She’s not the perfect angel baby that sits and never acts up and it has nothing to do with my parenting and everything to do her being exactly as she is. Yes, there are time outs and structure but ultimately I let her be free to play and enjoy. Whenever I try to get her to conform to what I think is socially acceptable (i.e. adult behavior) it ends badly so I’m constantly trying to go with the flow.

And ultimately friends…you’ll never see these people who stare at you the wrong way again. So fuck them.

At the end of the trip as the bus driver in Denver was helping me get a sleeping charlotte off the bus the kissed her hand and patted me with it and told me, “I’m so proud of you.” There was this distinct look in her eye of a woman who had traveled alone with children before. It almost made me cry.

“I did an awesome thing for my daughter,” I thought. Taking her on a trip with just me like that.

It was worth every (sometimes painful) minute.

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