Monday, July 19, 2010

Who's In Charge Here?

Sunday was a lot of work. And I'm pretty sure I lost the mommy-daughter battle for who's in control, at least temporarily.

It all started with a family breakfast in Lake Geneva in which Ada had to be removed from the restaurant at least three times for bad behavior at the end of the table. Her sassiness continues to amaze and frustrate me. And she's testing her limits with both of us.

After breakfast, it was time to head south to Warrenville to drop Rick off for a brewery tour and golf date with friends. I was really nervous after having been in the car with the kids for an hour and forty minutes, to then be driving them home another hour by myself. I haven't had much experience having both of them alone and it still scares me. At least with someone else in the car we can try to give Iain a pacifier --which he won't take 98% of the time--or try to reason with Ada as to why she needs to use her inside voice in the car. Without Rick, I didn't have that sense of security or another adult to commiserate with if things got really bad.

Fortunately, when glancing at the map, I noticed we were right next to Wheaton, IL. It just so happens that I have relatives in Wheaton and Lisle, right nearby, is home of the Morton Arboretum. I debated whether to call my relatives or not and decided that I'd take the kids to the Arboretum to burn off some energy and to say that I've been there since the architecture firm I work for designed the building and it is good to see some of the design work you are trying to sell. I opted to call my relatives when we got close to the Arboretum and they suggested I come to their house, which was five minutes away, to get a free entry pass since they are members. I am so thankful that I did.
Our "stop by to pick up a pass" turned into a two-hour play session for Ada, a good spot for Iain to nurse and nap, and a nice adult conversation for me in which I got to catch up with Tip, Marilyn, their son Brian, and his son Matt. We only see these relatives once or twice a year, which is a tragedy that it isn't more frequent, but whenever we do, I'm always pleased. They are so warm and welcoming and enjoyable that our visits are always refreshing. Not to mention that they tend to feed me well and they are excellent cooks. What's not to love?
As four o'clock approached, I loaded the kids into the car for a quick visit to the Arboretum. Marilyn invited us back for dinner and I wasn't going to turn that down knowing my fridge at home was barren. The Children's Garden area at the Arboretum closes at five pm so we needed to get there quickly if we were going to see it. The free admission pass was supposed to be good for just me but the ticket woman was nice enough to let it count Ada too. It's a good thing she did because I learned later on that my wallet was actually buried in the trunk in a bag under a pile of other bags from our trip and it might very well have taken me ten minutes to find it.

The Children's Garden was great fun. Ada enjoyed playing in the stream the best. Iain slept for most of the time, minus what he spent nursing. We missed the last tram that takes you around the whole park so we'll have to go back and do that again next time.
Second only to playing in the stream was this water marble ball. Ada loves balls, and water, and well, this just made her day and kept her occupied while I nursed Iain.The Arboretum has a beautiful lookout platform high in the trees where we convinced strangers to take a photo of us. I did convince Ada that piggy should not be upside down for his big photo opportunity so she turned him right side up.
About 5:30, after taking Ada and Iain and the stroller through one of the hedge mazes and getting stuck inside for 15 minutes, we found the exit and made our way to the car. Ada picked this point in time to launch her rebellion. She didn't want to get out of the stroller or into the car. I finally resorted to force and put her into the car myself, but then she asserted her force to let me know she didn't want to be secured into her car seat and in doing so, managed to rip open the side of the bag of Goldfish crackers. I was able to grab the bag and keep it together, with few casualties, until I found a container from the trunk to relocated them into. She felt a little bad about the Goldfish incident and finally acquiesced to the car seat.
I hoped that was the end of our battle, but knew deep down it was just the beginning since she almost fell asleep on the five minute ride back to Tip and Marilyn's and was bound to be crabby. I considered skipping dinner but we didn't really have lunch so that wasn't an option. And I'm an optimist so I was hopeful that everything would be just fine. Sure it would be, right? How bad could it be?
We got back to the house as Marilyn was heating up the meal. We all sat down for grace and I thought things were going well until Ada got up from the table and started walking around. Then she picked up a few decorations from around the house and threw a fit when I took them away. She didn't eat much and spent most of the meal rebelling.
Meanwhile, my hope was that Iain would take this opportunity during dinner to kick back, relax and take a nap. No such luck. He went into gassy, fussy, hungry, cranky mode about six bites into the meal. So here I am, with a fussy baby and a sassy two-and-a-half-year-old, trying to eat a warm meal and have a nice conversation with relatives and instead ending up completely embarrassed with no control of anything. None of my discipline tactics worked with Ada. None of my calming efforts worked with Iain. I was zero for two.
Thankfully, Tip and Marilyn understand how crazy kids can be and didn't seem to judge me based on my children's behavior and lack of discipline. I'm hopeful that they will invite us back even though Ada broke a mini tea serving set just before we left, didn't help clean up the toys she played with, and moved three out of four porcelain ducks to new homes throughout the house with no intention of returning them to their rightful home. I'm optimistic that they, as parents and grandparents themselves, are also chalking this up to too much time in the car after a long weekend and a fast approaching bedtime that rendered Ada unruly. And as for Iain, well, he's four weeks old so that gives him an automatic behavior pass, or at least I hope it does.
After such a long, adventure-filled day, both kids passed out in the car. I did have to stop at the end of Tip and Marilyn's block to take Iain's car seat out and swing it back and forth a few times to settle him down. But once on the road, I didn't hear a peep. It was heavenly... until I got parked on our block and realized I needed to get two sleeping children into our house that was about 500 feet from the car and Rick was still in Oakbrook having dinner and our neighbor who typically saves my butt in these situations wasn't home. After the initial moment of frustration, panic, and being really ticked off at Rick for not being there to help me, I came to a solution. I pulled the stroller out of the trunk, loaded the kids and my purse into it, pushed it to the front door (while flashing the middle finger to the parking space that just opened up ten feet from my front door) and woke Ada up to stumble through the first and second vestibule doors as I held Iain in one arm, pulled the stroller with the other and held it in place with my left foot as my right hand turned the key in our front lock and my backside held open the door for Ada and the stroller to stumble through. Sure I could have accepted the offer to help hold the door from the four polite adults walking in front of our building. At that point I was feeling like a mom-failure and had to do this by myself, for me. If nothing else, it was to prove that I did, in fact, still have control over something and I wasn't a helpless mom in the city. I guarantee that next time I'll let them help.

Moral of the story: Toddlers can't be controlled. Expect them to behave badly and embarrass you on occasion and do your best to take it with dignity. That's the best option you've got.

We returned to Tip and Marilyn's for dinner. Ada was tired, but I was hopeful that she would make it through dinner and sleep on the way home. We hadn't eaten lunch since we had brunch at 9:30 and snacks in the car.

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