So, we get lots of comments from people about how well behaved The Baby is when we are out on the town. She (usually) is very patient about waiting in lines, or waiting for a table. She plays quietly next to the table when I go to the chiropractor and I’m getting my E-stim done. She offers to “help” the cashier at the grocery store by handing her items from the cart. Over and over again I hear, “Mine were never so good! How did you do it?” and I smile and give credit where credit is due: She’s just a good, easy-going kid. But, honestly? I just took her everywhere from the very beginning. We had no choice and I wasn’t going to spend every moment of every day dealing with tantrums or wild-child. I didn’t want us to be THAT FAMILY. You know the one.
It all begins with my getting laid-off back in 2008 and between a CUH-RAPPY job market and various attempts to get pregnant, then stay pregnant, then face life with a preemie, The Daddy and I decided it made the most sense for me to stay home and take care of The Baby.
Now, some of you have followed our story from the old blog. For those of you who are new, The Baby is not our only child. After a very difficult pregnancy, we had twins who were born at 24 weeks gestation…four months premature. Our son was very sick and died three days later. Our daughter defied every odd and prediction for 21 amazing days. Two years later, and another difficult pregnancy that had me in the hospital for almost a month and on bed rest, The Baby was also born prematurely. She was 11 weeks early and spent 49 days in the NICU. She came home weeks before her original due date. In order to bring her home she had to pass tests. She had to go a set number of days without a breathing incident once she was off the respirator. She had to be able to finish a bottle within a certain amount of time. She had to be able to be sitting in her car seat without breathing incidents. There were others. But you can see the theme…she had to keep breathing. That’s not at all terrifying as a new parent. Hey! You can take your way too tiny baby home as soon as we think she will continue to breathe on her own but take a baby CPR class just in case. I suggested hiring one of her NICU nurses to come be our live-in nanny. The Daddy and I took turns sleeping in shifts for the first week, with The Baby in a pack-n-play at the foot of our bed. He slept with his head at the bottom of the bed for weeks so he could be close enough to hear her. We were a tiny bit nervous!
Now, new parent+preemie is an evil enough combination. Mix in having no family close by to come over and give us some time off. We didn’t feel comfortable with hiring a sitter from a service and quite frankly, we were simply terrified to be out of hearing range for a very long time, no matter what. One of our nurses was so very kind and did babysit one night for us, after we’d gotten over the hump, so to speak, but, pretty much, if we wanted to go anywhere, The Baby came along. Like every other SAHM, I took her with me to the grocery store, to the mall, to the doctor and anywhere else I needed to go because I had to. If I needed to go somewhere that she wasn’t welcome or it wasn’t appropriate, I either went at night or on the weekend or I realized I didn’t need to go there quite so badly after all. If we wanted to go out in the evening, we were limited to places we could take her and all of her gear (In three years, The Daddy and I have seen three movies in a theater. We used to go at least once a month.)
It was, and still is, sometimes frustrating as hell. A quick trip to the post office to use the self service vending machine can take 20 minutes by the time you figure in out-of-car-seat-I-CAN-WALK-ALL-BY-MYSELF-what-does-this-do-back-in-car-seat. Some days, I can’t face another 90 minute trip to the grocery store and I go while The Daddy feeds her dinner. But. On the plus side. If you realize early on that you are carrying around a little sponge, who soaks up everything you say and do, and very early on model the behavior you want to see (and I’m still working on not yelling at other drivers who do stupid things but I have cut waaay back on the sarcastic, under-my-breath comments about rude people.) AND stick to your guns when it comes to what you will and won’t let your kid do in public, suddenly you find you have this little person who automatically holds your hand when you step off the sidewalk into the parking lot, who says “Excuse me” when they bump into someone accidentally while dancing to the elevator music, and who can sit at a table in a restaurant and eat a nice meal, even if that restaurant doesn’t have a kid’s meal or crayons. She will still tell strangers her life story, and there are plenty of days when it feels like I’ve said “PUT THAT BACK” a gazillion times. But for every day when I give the stinkeye to the tenth person to tell me she’s so adorable when I’ve just spent an hour trying to get the 5 things I need for dinner tonight and she’s been grabbing everything in reach and screeching, “NO! YOU ARE BEING RUDE!” because I put her in the shopping cart, we have way more days when I sort of step outside myself and look at us and am amazed at this great little kid keeping me company and composing a song on the fly about the wonderful “BEE-OOOOO-TIFULLLL DAY I AM HAVING WITH MY MOMMY”
Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that it’s hard being tiny. Everything in a store is right in her face and it’s bright and colorful. Of course, she’s going to touch it. I just keep reminding her to look with her eyes and not her hands and that we will soon get to the toy aisle and she can play there. Yes, I know that really wide area in Target looks like a great place to run, but there are too many people here. Hold my hand now, and when we get over there, where there aren’t people I will let you run. I need you to ride in the shopping cart in this store while I do the actual shopping, but if we get through the list quickly enough, I will let you get out and walk. This is a quiet place. Save your loud voice for when we get home. We have just a few minutes, so when the timer goes off on my phone it will be time to stop looking at the books and go to the register, ok? No, you don’t need to rearrange all of the merchandise in the dollar store by color. I know you think it looks better that way, but really, we just needed a laundry basket so please put the plastic doo-dads back on the shelf the way they had them and when we get home I will let you rearrange the tupperware cabinet while I fix lunch.
And if all else fails…thank goodness for an unlimited data plan and streaming movies on the smartphone! And cheddar bunnies. Never leave home without cheddar bunnies in the backpack/purse/diaper bag. Never. 🙂
And when the worst happens and she throws a fit in the middle of Barnes and Noble because I ask her to put her coat on before we go out into the 20 degree weather, knocking her huge stroller over WITH my very full, very hot cup of coffee so that it soaks my entire pant leg, and ends up lying on her back, screaming at the top of her lungs – just take a deep breath. Pick up the stack of books that fell. Right the stroller. Apologize about the coffee spill to the store employee who has come dashing over, sure that the child has been crushed under a book avalanche based on the noise she is making. And then try to sell tickets to this one time only work of performance art taking place. Maybe you’ll make enough to get a new cup of coffee. I never did, but at least it kept me from giving her to the nearest person who looked sympathetic to my plight. What’s the line from the old commercial? Never let them see you sweat? You have to be zen because you sure as hell don’t want them figuring out what your buttons are and how to push them! And, if you are lucky and if you have been consistent with your expectations and with your compromises, when the time comes that you really need them to just fall in line they usually will. Then, thank them. “I really appreciate how well you listened in there and how you sat and played with the toys in your backpack while I talked to the doctor.” “I had a nice dinner tonight because you ate without playing and used your inside voice the whole time. Would you like to go back to that restaurant again sometime?”
Anyway, that’s what worked for us. As she gets older, we make sure she knows what is expected before we go in anywhere. We watch for when she is reaching one of her triggers: tired, hungry, over-stimulated, bored. We offer equal time fun stuff and have-to-do stuff. We make sure we acknowledge her successes.
What about you? How have you tamed The Wild Thing?