How to Survive a Four Hour Drive with a Toddler

Prior to becoming a mother, I told myself I wouldn’t be caught dead driving long distances with a child. I figured I could put off accepting any kind of out-of-town social event until the kid was say, oh I don’t know – how old are they when they stop misbehaving? Oh right. Never. My genius pre-motherhood plan lasted less than two years. Last week my husband, eighteen month old son, and I set off on a cross-state drive for a wedding and I’ve lived to tell about it!

If you want to survive a long, family car ride without needing to call someone for bail money (presumably for assaulting whoever woke your sleeping child), then read on:

1. Expect the Unexpected

Before our trip could even get off to a proper start, I somehow managed to dislodge the right side of my front bumper. I’m talented like that. I’m like ninety percent sure it wasn’t my fault, but let’s not squabble over details. There we were: in the predawn hours, dragging rubber and plastic down the highway, praying to the travel gods the baby would stay asleep while anxiously looking for a safe place to pull off .

This looks safe, right, Honey?

“This looks safe, right, Honey?”

Despite neatly packing snacks, quietly transferring my sleeping son from the crib to the car, and carefully hanging fancy clothes without wrinkling them, I was not prepared for this. So what do you do when the proverbial fecal matter hits the fan? Aside from performing a ritual goat sacrifice, I strongly suggest you embrace the chaos. The more you try to fight against the craziness, the less calm you (and everyone around you) will be. Just try to roll with it – even if you’re screaming internally.

Just breathe in and out.

Just breathe in and out.

2. Breaks. SO. MANY. BREAKS.

Keeping in theme with the previous rule, you’ll need to adopt the mantra “F*** The Schedule!” When the mini vehicular catastrophe was finally remedied (thank you, zip ties!), we were a solid two hours behind schedule. I thought to myself, “That’s okay. We factored in a bonus hour for breaks, so we’re really only one hour behind. I can make that up with clever driving and no breaks. It’ll be fine!” Oh how innocent I was.

So young, so full of hope I was.

So young, so full of hope I was.

A funny thing happens when you try to drive long stretches without a break. Perhaps “funny” isn’t the right word. Pee. Yup that’s the word: PEE. Pee happens when you don’t take breaks and you have a toddler with the bladder the size of a thimble. Unfortunately my seizures left me with the inability to smell (True story! Ask me about it some time) which meant I was blissfully unaware of the urine soaked car seat and horrifyingly wet toddler until it was too late. Do yourself (and your upholstery) a favor, and take as many breaks as necessary. Those with functioning olfactory receptors will thank you.

WHY, GOD? WHY?!?!

WHY, GOD? WHY?!?!

 3. Baby = “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

Okay, this one may sound like I’m a horrible person – and maybe I am, who cares? – but one of the perks to having a baby is that it is the best excuse you’ll ever have! I’m not recommending you lie and say your baby is sick to get out of a party because, ya know, karma. But if you have a legit situation which has created some negative outcome, don’t be afraid to blame your exit strategy on the baby. Just don’t get drunk with power.

drunk with power highlander

It’s deceptively easy to use the excuse too much.

The final key to being able to survive a long drive with your toddler is to not worry about what others may think. Merely showing up in one piece should be accomplishment enough, in my opinion. Yeah, we were late and probably smelled of baby pee, but we MADE IT! The ride back? Now that’s an entirely different story…

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What Your Parenting Style Says About You

In our four-part series on parenting styles, we looked at four very different kinds of moms.  We talked about everything from being super-strict (like the Helicopter Mom) to ultra-lenient (like the Laid-Back Mom) and hippies (like Crunchy Mamas) to geeks (like Techie Mommies).  And whether you identify fully with one style or just pick out a couple of similarities, it says something about you.  So what does it all mean?

Besides the obvious judging, of course

Besides the obvious judging, of course

 

Let’s take it back a bit first.  The whole idea for a series about different kinds of parenting came about in a rather serendipitous way.  I was at a local mommy & me type play place and couldn’t help but notice that there were so many different kinds of moms there – moms on their phones, moms hovering, moms talking about amber necklaces, moms “asking” their kids to obey, etc.  And it got me thinking: where do these habits come from?  Are we just carbon copies of our own childhood, mirroring our parents?  Is it instinct?  Or is it a combination?

It's confusing, I know, but bear with me

It’s confusing, I know, but bear with me

I think we can’t help but bring some of our experiences into the process of parenting.  If you were raised never to eat meat, and you continued that lifestyle into adulthood, then chances are you’re probably going to pass that on to your children, too.  Yet I also remember poring over countless books and online articles during my pregnancy, bound and determined to learn everything I could to raise the most perfect, well-rounded little person… and then I clearly remember forgetting everything I ever read or experienced the moment I held my son on my chest for the first time.

Similar reaction, basically

Similar reaction, basically

So what does it all mean?  Obviously I’m not a doctor or an expert by any stretch of the imagination (unless you count my own, then yes), but I believe that all mothers instinctively want what is best for their child, and that may mean something different to each mother.  For the Helicopter Moms out there, they show their unconditional love by being a constant presence in their child’s life.  And for many of the self-professed Hoverers I’ve talked to, it’s because they themselves felt unsure or distant from their own parents as a child.  So they have vowed to do the exact opposite for their children by doing everything they can to be there for and protect them.

Not all moms share in the same upbringing or ideology, and that’s okay, too.  A lot of the more “hands-off” or free-range parents I’ve talked with don’t even dig that deep when I ask them about why they parent the way they do.  For them, it’s not something they even have to devote that much thought to – it just came about naturally.  Though they may tend to do their research when it comes to important issues (like health or education), at their core they care more about living in the moment with their child than anything else.

As I finished up the last of the four-part series last week, I was already wondering how I wanted to tie up the whole thing.  And wouldn’t you know it, the idea came to me in the same place that started it all.  Back at the play place with my fellow moms and my baby’s bffs, I stopped (subconsciously or not) putting parents into categories.  I stopped seeing “Crunchy Mamas” and started seeing the beautifully complex women that they always were.

You are amazing, don't ever forget that

You are amazing, don’t ever forget that

So that’s my takeaway from the whole thing.  You may have some helicopter tendencies or geek out from time to time, but that’s kind of the point.  We differ a little bit in our parenting styles, but when get right down to it, each and every one of us just care about helping our little one make it through this crazy world.  What do you think?

How to Be Freaking Classy!

With all the raging hormones flowing through your body, your patience may be wearing thinner and thinner as the days go on.  As for me, I started out trying to be really polite and friendly all the time.  You know, never wanting to be a bother, or some nonsense like that.  But as time went by, I had less and less tolerance for the weird and awkward things people would say to me – or worse – behind my back.  Don’t you just loooove frenemies?  So I decided I wasn’t going to kill them with kindness, I was going to kill them by being fabulously classy!

“Are you sure you should go through with this pregnancy?”

First off, rude!  Let me point out, this was an actual question I was asked within the first few days I made my pregnancy public.  Sure, most anyone who knew me was aware of my health issues, and I can see how that may raise questions about my pregnancy.  But for the love of God, don’t ask a woman – especially not a high-risk one – if they are going to keep the baby!!!

What I Wanted to Do:

Slap-Happy-futurama

Don’t act like this wouldn’t feel great

Boy did I want to do this, but I didn’t.  Instead I chose to be freaking classy!  I’m talking Don Draper level classy!

Don't smoke, kids!

Don’t smoke, kids!

 

The Classy Thing to Do Instead:

So when someone asks you if you’re going to keep your child, say, “It means a lot to me that you’re so concerned, but choices regarding my baby’s life is a private and delicate matter and I would appreciate it if you treated it as such.”

There’s one thing that is crucial to this working.  As soon as you say your devastatingly classy line, RUN AWAY!  Don’t give them time to utter an ignorant response.

RUUUN

RUUUN

 

“You think that’s bad?  Let me tell you MY way worse story…”

There’s always gotta be a one-upper.  Whether this is a friend, coworker, frenemy, or an eavesdropping stranger, the dreaded one-upper will find a way to take any story, any experience and attempt to make you feel insignificant.  Which is exactly how you want to feel when your emotions are all over the place and you’re worried about the health of you and your baby, right?

What I Wanted to Do:

We all know this person

We all know this person

Aside from cutting the drama queen off, you have only two choices.  One, you let the person finish and say something snarky like, “Okay, do you feel cool now?”  But that’s probably best left as a scenario you play out in your head to amuse yourself.  Second choice, the classy one.

The Classy Thing to Do Instead:

Let the one-upper finish, and respond with, “I’m sorry for your experience, but I’m going through a very trying time right now and would appreciate the same sensitivity and empathy you expect from people when you tell your stories.”  And then, as always, make a quick exit.

So true, Mary, so true

So true, Mary, so true

 

“Maybe you’re doing something wrong.”

“And maybe you’re a giant doodie head!”  But seriously, it’s like your pain and struggles can’t just be the results of an illness, you must be somehow responsible for jeopardizing your baby’s health.  For every one-upper out there with an awful story, there is a Disney princess who just can’t understand why you’re having a hard pregnancy because hers was just so darned magical.

cinderella-spin2

What I Wanted to Do:

When hearing about their blissful, worry-free experiences while I was in the midst of my own personal hell, I just wanted to shout, “GOOD FOR YOU!” and stomp out all sassy-like.

*stomp stomp stomp*

*stomp stomp stomp*

 

The Classy Thing to Do Instead:

Be honest.  You may not want to be so candid, but it’s your best bet.  Whenever the princess starts going on about how when her water broke, rainbows and fairy dust spilled out instead, just smile and say, “I’m so happy that you had an unusually easy pregnancy, but it’s really hard for me to hear about it when my pregnancy is so uncertain and filled with problems.”  Sometimes laying it all out on the table like that will shut up any rude people.  And then peace out as usual.

Deuces, I'm out

Deuces, I’m out

 

“If you think the pregnancy is hard, wait ’til the baby comes!”

Gee, thanks.  As if I wasn’t already nervous enough, now I have to worry about how I’ll be able to take care of my baby.  I started thinking, “What if my illnesses are too much to handle?  Oh God, what about the actual delivery?  What if something goes wrong?  What if the baby is sick?” 

What I Wanted to Do:

Solid comeback

Solid comeback

How exactly did that person want me to respond anyways?  “What?  You mean I have to feed and change him everyday?!  Whoa whoa whoa, this changes things!”

The Classy Thing to Do Instead:

“Wow!  You really know a lot about post-pregnancy life and babies.  So you won’t mind helping me out if I need it then?”  BOOM!  Either they’ll laugh it off and run away or they’ll awkwardly agree to helping you.  It’s a win-win!

kthxbai

Love ya, mean it!

 

“You Need to Gain More Weight!  You’re So Small!”

I know most women get flack for the opposite, getting judged for putting on too much weight.  But because of my Lupus flaring up and making it difficult for my body to process fats, oils, and fiber, my morning sickness mutated into a debilitating battle with food.  Before I was pregnant, I weighed 106 lbs (which is healthy for my 5’2 frame).  At the lowest point in my pregnancy I only weighed 90 lbs.  For someone of my petite stature, the weight loss took a more drastic toll on my body and it made me extremely concerned for my baby.  So when this woman thought she was being funny, cute or paying me a compliment, she was actually reinforcing my fear that my inability to maintain or gain weight was going to be bad for the baby.

What I Wanted to Do:

Fear>Sadness>Anger. Repeat.

Fear>Sadness>Anger. Repeat.

Sometimes you just need to have a big ol’ ugly cry fest full of pillow punching and dying whale sounds.  But sometimes you have to just rise above it and channel your inner diva.

Ya betta werk!

Ya betta werk!

 

The Classy Thing to Do Instead:

Most of the time, the people that make comments about your appearance are not going to be friends or family.  So if it’s a stranger or acquaintance, you have a little more leeway with your sass level here.  How I chose to respond was, “Thank you!  Baby is doing fine for now, but I guess I better start eating more Krispy Kremes, huh?  And can you believe I don’t even have stretch marks?”  Just try not to waste your time on people who fixate on the superficial things.  You’ve got more important things to think about, and their snark comments aren’t one of them!  Focus on you, booboo!

people-worst-nick

Nick is so wise

So those were the top five rude/awkward/weird things I have actually had people say to me during my pregnancy.  I try to remember that most of the time these people are just incredibly oblivious to the fact that what they are saying is awful.  I also try to remind myself that these people think that what they are saying is well-intentioned.  Either way, you’re the one who is in charge of how you let people make you feel.  And, honey, you are you too freaking classy to let these haters bring you down!!!