Entertaining Baby: An Odyssey, Part 1

Here’s a phrase I repeat too often: “Wow, I did not think this through.”

I have a knack for the special sort of bad decision that gives me plenty of time to reconsider after I’m already stuck with it: trying to cut my own hair, attempting to repair electronics, aging.  Someday, when I die as an exceptionally famous person, historians will probably remember those as my last words.  (Or, if my death involves fire:  “Hey Honey, watch this!”)

Traveling with a baby is a perfect example of what I mean, and might also be involved in the historical accounts of my misguided demise.  I haven’t yet found a good way to do it, but I’ve explored most of the bad ways.  It’s telling that for the first thousands of years of civilization, families didn’t travel.  Do you know why people can say that their family has worked the same land for generations?  Because they descend from generations of rational people.

My wife and I, however, settled more than a thousand miles away from our nearest relative.  We have to travel if we want to see them, and there are obvious objections to doing it without our daughter.  (Many of them involve jail time; one of them involves hapless robbers and a tarantula.  We’re also rather attached to her.)

At first she lulled us into a hasty and entirely mistaken understanding, though.  We drove to my wife’s parent’s house when our daughter was only a couple of months old.  The trip had always taken about thirteen hours before, and only took an hour more with a newborn.  She actually slept the entire way.  It was so peaceful that my wife and I seriously considered skipping our planned visit and driving for several more months.  (She never slept that well.)  We thought we had finally figured out the trick to successful parenthood: road trips.

I can’t adequately describe how happy we were.  Our daughter was safe and snug in her car seat so we didn’t need to worry about her and while she slept we were free to devote our attentions elsewhere.  It was one of the first times after our daughter’s birth that we were able to talk to each other without interruption.  Granted, even in so short a time, we had already forgotten how to talk to each other about anything apart from diapers.  Still, it was nice to talk about diapers in relative quiet.

Thus, we were pretty excited about the drive to my parent’s house the following summer.  That trip had always taken closer to twenty hours, but we anticipated twenty hours of soothing calm.

In the course of human events, few misjudgments rival that one’s magnitude of folly.  (Notable contenders include the strapping of passengers to an enormous balloon full of explosive gas, the accepting of a suspiciously large wooden horse designed by one’s enemies, and the use of chopsticks rather than pretty much any other utensil.)

Newborns sleep.  Not being a fetus is exhausting and besides, it isn’t like we usher them into the world gently.  They also don’t mind sitting still because really, what else do they have to do?  The items on a newborn’s schedule include “sit still,” “sit still and fill my diaper,” and “sit still and eat.”  There might be some leg jiggling mixed in there to break up the routine, but nothing that won’t fit comfortably in a car seat.  Car seats are just parents with seat belts.

Babies, on the other hand, have places to go and an entire world to gnaw on inappropriately.  They don’t like being strapped down because they’ve developed a suspicion of what they might be missing.  Sure they might not understand what most of the things in the world are, but if you strap them down they know enough to realize that they can’t put the bulk of that mystery in their mouths anymore.  Is there anything worse than being able to see a strange new chair and not chew it?

Well, in the time between our road trips, our daughter switched from a newborn to a baby.  She wasn’t content to sleep and let us talk.  She wasn’t content to play with toys in her chair.  She wanted freedom, like William Wallace in a little ducky bodysuit.

Unfortunately, we figured all of this out too late.

The No Win Situation

In part 2, songs are sung, llamas are praised, sanity is abandoned.


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