Ever since my adorable, tiny baby was born, I’ve been looking forward to when we could get back to our previous schedule of frequent outings. Well, not ever since, since for at least a few days to a week I was quite enjoying just sitting around having a normal breastfeeding relationship with my new baby. It wasn’t before long, though, that I realized that my ability to remain calm in the face of my toddler’s inability to remain calm hinged on our ability to get her the hell out of the house. Having a newborn who eats on a regular schedule of all the time put a damper on my ability to go anywhere where I wasn’t just sitting right back down and feeding her again. (Another hindrance in our leaving the house was the factor of how inordinately hot it’s been this summer and my inability to survive and parent when it’s inordinately hot.)
When adorable, tiny newborn was about a month old, after a couple of weeks of increasing tension from seeing only each other all day, every day, the three of us went for a walk to the playground. It went fairly well. Newborn (C) slept in the Ergobaby or nursed almost the entire time. Toddler (G) played with “her friends”, aka kids she just met. There were a few less than optimal aspects to our trip. I should’ve brought the stroller at least for the walk home. I should’ve brought the water bottle. I couldn’t have done anything differently when it came time to leave and C started crying just as G was running away, crying that she didn’t want to leave.
Eventually we got on our way and everyone stopped crying. At the time, I considered the trip a success, but it made me wary for future trips. How could I handle a frustrated, crying toddler when I could barely hear her over the frustrated, crying newborn? How could I make sure to take both of their needs into account (and possibly my needs could be considered at some point) in order to achieve if not maximum enjoyment at least minimum sadness? (I guess this is the plight of a parent of more than one child, a juggling act.)
A week later, we had to go to an appointment, my six week postpartum appointment, and I dreaded it. I dreaded leaving the house with two potentially sobbing children. I dreaded the potential crying, yelling, fighting. I dreaded my inability to at least maneuver my crying children both into the car to get us home from wherever we were all crying. How would I get a fighting toddler into her carseat while holding a tiny newborn? How would I get her to leave somewhere one-handed?
Our two outings last week were uneventful. We went to the appointment and then to the coffee shop. Everyone was happy. Then we went on a walk to the coffee shop again. Again, everyone was happy. Today, however, not everyone was happy. I can’t even remember how it started, but once it got going, it wasn’t stopping. G started being loud so I took her out of the coffee shop so we wouldn’t disturb the other customers (which usually works, as we go out, have a chat or take deep breaths, then go back in all calm). This somehow made her more worked up, she didn’t want to leave and she must’ve misunderstood that I was saying we were leaving. So she got more worked up, and kept trying to run back into the coffee shop. I got more frustrated and tried to keep her with me since she was yelling quite loudly. Everything escalated (and was not at all helped by the well-meaning strangers who tried to talk to me while my toddler was melting down in my arms), so I decided it was time to leave.
Thankfully my mom was there. She held C while I was in the hallway with G, and she packed up our stuff so we could get going. If I’d been there by myself, my coffee and wrap and G’s muffin and apple juice would’ve been wasted because I’d just have left it, unable to hold a newborn (even in a carrier), restrain a toddler and clean up a table of food on my own. Interestingly enough, we hadn’t even walked the thirty feet to the exit of the Pavilion when G was calm and her usual happy self again. It took me at least a few blocks of walking before I felt calm again.
I have no idea how I would’ve handled the situation had I been by myself. In that case I would’ve had C in the carrier while we were in the hallway trying to calm down, and she probably would’ve started crying which probably would have led to my grabbing our stroller and bag and running for home, abandoning our snacks.
I’d like to be able to go on walks to the coffee shop or the playground just the three of us. I’d like to be able to go on trips to the bigger playground or the Please Touch Museum (which has the added complication of driving and thus the added potential of driving with a crying baby). I’d like to be able to go grocery shopping or to the library or wherever we want to go. I have this fear that these outings will all be reenactments of today, this epic meltdown, only I won’t have any help in the retreat. Intellectually I know that they can’t all be bad, that even if we aren’t all 100% happy 100% of the time, it’ll be ok. I have to learn to be ok with us not always being ok.