Family Road Trip From Hell – Kveller
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Family Road Trip From Hell

We took a family road trip and got home last night. Me, the husband, the 6-year-old (Miles), and the 3 1/2-year-old (Fred). Four nights in and around Tucson including the ghost towns of Tombstone and Bisbee and a “guest ranch” in the Saguaro National Forest.

It was kind of the vacation from H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Here’s why we should’ve stayed home and “had a picnic in the bathtub” as Bob Dylan famously suggested when his family adventure went sour (“Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues“).

The Fred Factor

1. Fred didn’t sleep well (ate too much soy, was excited to be in hotels, the roll-away he and I slept on was not as comfortable as we had hoped), and was thus fussy/irritable/excitable pretty much for five days straight.

2. Fred doesn’t regularly nap anymore and wouldn’t you know it, he wouldn’t nap on this trip in the car, which is when he can normally be enticed to sleep to avoid being fussy/irritable/excitable and to avoid events such as:

3. “The Pasta/Ketchup Incident” which occurred the night before we left at the guest ranch. Now, you oughta know that Fred has never had ketchup on pasta. Ever. But you wouldn’t know it from the holy fit he pitched when I refused to put ketchup on his pasta in the communal dining room that night. Even the petite dollop I gave in and plopped next to his noodles (which I had already had to send back once because they came doused with parmesan so this was an epic build-up to these noodles) did not placate him. And so I did something I have never done: I picked him up, screaming the whole way (him, not me, although I was close!) and took him back to our room, where he rapidly stopped screaming and fell asleep in my arms in about three minutes flat. The “walk of shame” into the dining room the next morning for breakfast was something I will likely never forget. (He didn’t even ask for ketchup on his breakfast potatoes, just an FYI.)

4. The re-enactment of the showdown at the OK Corral in Tombstone terrified Fred before it even started because he heard the staff tell me that the guns will be loud and to cover his ears. We spent the entire hour that my husband and older son enjoyed the show wandering the streets of Tombstone, jumping at the sound of every blank bullet fired from the theatre behind the main avenue. And being recognized while holding a terrified Fred is not fun. And having some cowboy glance at my Magen David and smirk, “Shalom,” also creeped me out.

5. Fred’s terror at the sound of gunshots did not stop him, ironically, from repeatedly asking me in that hour for a set of toy guns, in Fred-speak, of course: “Me buy me toy gun. Me no shoot people. [It’s only a] toy gun.” He said this set of phrases maybe 137 times in that hour.

The Miles Factor

1. He’s obsessed with buying things. I’m told it’s age-appropriate, but it is a serious fixation of his and annoyance to me. We made sure to get him a few small trinkets from the places we visited, and I let him select a katsina doll as his “main” souvenir, but my husband and I seriously wondered if now is the time to show him videos of starving children to try and balance his vacation and life of relative privlege with a healthy dose of reality! We are not extravagant spenders at all, and part of me always feels guilty for spending any money at all, so to have a child so consumer-obsessed really terrifies me. I blame capitalism!!

2. He’s a music dictator. Miles was raised in a no-radio-music infancy and babyhood, since my Waldorf roots tend toward wanting only “real” music (sung, not played on a machine). But the only thing that mildly soothed Fred in the car for the first two years of his life was music, so we indulge. As I discussed here during Grammy week, Miles loves hip-hop and rap. Once he figured out that Channel 002 on Sirius radio is hip-hop and rap, he demanded it adamantly each time we got in the car. And he wouldn’t let up about it. It almost made me shout, “Do I have to pull over!? You’ll be sorry if I do!” Instead, I alternately insisted on “mature rock” and gave in, very grumpy about it, mind you.

3. He’s a wonderfully mild child and is incredibly kind to his brother, but he also, when bored, likes to bug him. Refusing him things, poking fun at him, insisting on things just because. I know he needs and wants attention, and I know Fred is not always innocent, but the bickering is new to me, and it made me nuts.

The Fear Factor

1. I fear I’m not/we’re not cut out for road trips.

2. I fear I work “too much” and have lost touch with my boys and their needs.

3. I fear I’ll never get to enjoy Shabbat services (we had to leave the candle-lit Kabbalah-inspired services because it was groovin’ much later than we could handle with a sleeping Fred and falling-asleep Miles).

4. I fear I’ll never be “me” again.

5. I fear I am what Fred shouted at me when I wouldn’t give him another juice box: “Bad Mama.”

It hurts to be in so much fear.

Indeed, there were bright spots to the trip. Breastfeeding saves us from so many public scenes, you can’t even imagine. Considering we don’t have our boys watch TV or DVDs or play video games, they actually handle planes and hours in cars and boring hotels and dinners remarkably well. We all donned mining caps and slickers in Bisbee and descended 1500 feet into an old copper mine with no one flipping out (even me; I’m pretty claustrophobic). Miles dubbed the Saguaros dotting the mountains “baguettes” (he’s colorblind and I think they may appear brown to him) and we had a terrific laugh at our cultured city-boy calling a stretch of the Saguaro National Forest “Baguette Mountain” (dear God, thank you for this child). Fred wanted more popcorn one day and I had no more; Miles on his own took out a handful and happily put it into Fred’s empty cup.

And in the pool at the guest ranch, I held both boys in the water and sang to them and bounced them up and down and they clung to each other, wet and laughing hysterically. And I stopped suddenly and I told them: “No matter what happens in your life and no matter how hard it is with me as your Mama, remember this moment. I love you both so much.”

It’s good to be home. But I’m not free of fear.

Another day. Another opportunity to get out of fear. Big sigh.

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