As Little Miss Junior shouted at me circa 5am this morning, demanding her bottle self-righteously, I couldn’t help but yearn for the days when bottles, diapers, and overnight screaming were a thing of the past. Our family unit had just returned home from an 8 day jaunt to visit both sets of grandparents and extended family through the labor day vacation. Sunday was a looooong day in the car, driving from south Jersey back up to Boston with a pit stop in North Jersey to pick up our dog. LMJ, being a terrible sleeper who wages a war on all things sleep related, will wake up the moment a car stops moving… woe to the driver during a long red light, or even worse, a traffic jam. Shudder to think. Waking up in a car seems to trigger some kind of traumatic Apocalypse Now style flashbacks for LMJ, who proceeded to serenade us from the back seat with a throat curdling scream-cry for over an hour during the drive home. Just when you think she’s run out of gas, as the little sobs are petering out, she’ll stop for a few moments to catch her breath and then re-ignite her cat strangling catter-walling. There’s nothing quite like the melodic charm of your youngest child screaming at you at the top of her lungs from 3 feet away for what felt like eternity. Serenity now.
In those moments there is no consoling her. Red has tried calming words, moving to the back seat with her, trying to talk her down… nothing works. We have two choices, stop the car and take her out, or keep driving and she will run out of gas eventually. We try to schedule all long car trips such that we’re leaving around bed time for the girls. This way the usual hemming-hawing and griping leads to sleep fairly quickly. Problems arise when we have to stop for any reason.
You say you have to pee? Here’s a cup, were not stopping! Red light ahead? Close your eyes, I think we can swerve through oncoming traffic if I time it right… Police DUI check? We’re smashing through the barricades, the alternative is worse. Do you remember the last time we stopped? I can’t go back to that man. I’ve seen things. I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving. The horror. The horror…
Sorry, I lost myself for a moment there.
I wish I could help LMJ when she starts to lose it…. Balling up her little hands in defiant rage from her car seat. I have to admire her will though. She hollered for a full hour and fifteen minutes at us. Either she’s extremely stubborn or she really hates Connecticut with a passion. Perhaps a little of both. There’s something innately disturbing about a crying child. It strikes you in your core, and the urge is to assist immediately. In this scenario, there’s virtually nothing we can do. We can stop for an extended period of time, but we’re looking at a 2am arrival already, and mom and dad are on fumes from short sleep and child care to begin with… we have to push on through and know she’ll conk out eventually. I will miss the cute baby smiles, the little hugs, the moments of recognition when you know they just learned something, and a light switch went on in their little heads. I will miss their innocence, and absolute joy over simple things like a balloon. I won’t miss the screaming though. All babies cry, it comes with the territory, but if you ask me to pull over because you need to relieve yourself, you best roll down the window and jump out… because I’m not going back there man… Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger. Each time I looked around the walls moved in a little tighter…. Oh, wait… sorry… carried away again.