Picture if you will a warm and sunny, pristinely gorgeous fall day. A nearly perfect day to set off on a road trip from civilized, urban Minnesota to my eastern South Dakota hometown; a five and a half hour schlep through what I affectionately call, the taint of the Midwest. Scenery? None. Cow dung? Plenty. Having relocated to the Twin Cities ten years ago, I’ve come to know this drive all too well. Prior to having my son, the drive was at worst a minor annoyance. Like a paper cut. It has since become its very own brand of torture. Like a thousand paper cuts. On and about your eyeballs and genitals.
The anxiety of long distance car travel with a baby is almost more than my poor 30(ish) year old heart can take. Chalk this up to the fact that my child is a rare breed that detests riding in his car seat. It’s true. Never so much as a “thanks for chauffeuring me everywhere, Ma.” let alone kicking in some gas money every now and again. Nope, only ear drum rattling, glass shattering shrieking. Even in the quiet, content moments I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop and the wailing to start. Add to that my own tendencies toward neurotic backseat driving and you have yourself a shit show of epic proportions. Given the choice between a road trip with baby and an invasive gynecological exam, I’m going with the Pap smear 9 1/2 times out of 10.
All things considered, this particular trip was starting out relatively well. We set off at a reasonable hour, our sensible little car packed to the gills for a two day trip (Seriously, he’s two feet tall. How the hell does he have so much stuff?). There we were, on our merry way, when…… IT happened. A routine gas stop set off a chain of events that ended in the barf heard round the world. Stopping the car lead to a very brief interruption in the in-flight entertainment, a portable DVD device playing his favorite television show. This interruption was simply too much to bear, and so began a brain melting crying jag. Crying soon gave way to hysterical screeching. Due to the lingering remnants of a chest cold, screeching begat a coughing fit. Said coughing fit then lead to the most impressive feat of digestive pyrotechnics I have ever witnessed. This includes the solid year where Jagermeister with a marijuana chaser was my beverage of choice. A vomit made all the more spectacular by the fact that all he had deemed fit to consume that day was milk and French fries. It was as white and bountiful as Rush Limbaugh’s ass. And it just…kept…coming. It was the exorcist sponsored by McDonald’s. And all we could do was watch in horror.
A sharp turn off of the highway, and the parking lot of a tractor supply store became our pit stop. Under the watchful eye of a grizzled old man in a John Deere hat smoking a Marb Red, we feverishly attacked the mess armed only with a travel pack of baby wipes (a feat akin to cleaning up the Gulf oil spill with a fistful of cotton balls). With a nod from our one-man pit crew, we were back on the road. And so I sat crammed in the back seat, stroking the hair of a now sleeping, vomit scented child. Four hours left. But hey, at least we get a chance to do it all again in two days.
I recall being just a few short weeks into motherhood and shaking my fists at the gods when my chronically fussy baby refused to love his pacifier. I’d offer it, he’d go to town on that bad boy for a few seconds, and “POP”, out it would fly. Then the crying would start again. I felt like the pacifier was the missing piece. Like it was the cure-all for my parental woes and I was at a huge disadvantage without it in my bag of tricks. “Surely he’d sleep in uninterrupted 10 hour intervals if only he’d hang on to that pacifier.” We tried every size, shape, color, brand of pacifier under the sun. I think there may have even been a cool ranch flavored one in there… But sadly, none of them worked. He was an Olympic level nurser, and he took a bottle so-sweat – but it was no-paci, no-how.
Cut to nearly two years old, and me thanking my lucky stars that we aren’t dealing with pacifier deprogramming. Talking to other mothers, binky rehab sounds like a toddler version of Trainspotting. I picture baggy-eyed, twitching baby junkies tottering around, desperate for just one more fix.
One of my favorite mom friends (and all around favorite people) shared her solution with me. She and her daughter tossed pacifiers off their third floor terrace so the baby squirrels in the surrounding trees might treat themselves to a suckle. Friggin’ genius! I defy you to show me a tot who wouldn’t be comforted by the idea of diaper-clad baby squirrels frolicking in the treetops with binkies in their itty bitty mouths.
In a moment of mommy-masochism, I once found myself watching one of those nanny rescue type reality shows. The latter day Mary Poppins helped a young boy kick the habit by instructing him to pack up his precious in a manila envelope addressed to the “Paci-fairy”. He then deposited the envelope in the mail box and the next morning found the nymph had replaced his pacifier with candy and gifts. Like the tooth fairy, but with rubber nipples. And the little bugger could not have been more thrilled. Also friggin’ genius!
I often try to imagine how I might be coping with this issue if I had to. I picture myself telling the little guy that, second only to malaria, pacifier shortage is the most critical issue facing third-world countries today. I don’t know that he’d really grasp the urgency of the situation, or that I even knew how much postage you need to ship a box of pacifiers to Rwanda. No, I’m sure I’d have to come up with something better. But instead I just smile and thank the same gods I cursed nearly two years ago, thankful we dodged the binky bullet.
From time to time, I find myself at one of those parenting crossroads that drives me to internet in search of advice. More often than not, you’ll find a wealth of information from every school of parenting imaginable. As a person with no clear cut parenting philosophy, I tend to find this Old Country Buffet of ideas extremely appealing. A little of this, a little of that, hit the make your own sundae bar and BAM you’re done! But occasionally the most innocuous of questions will lead you down the rabbit hole of stupid, through the looking glass of crazy. When my son was just shy of a year old, I set off on such a quest to find a way to curb his incessant biting. Here are just a few of the tasty little nuggets of wisdom the World Wide Web had to offer:
1.) Bite him back. This one was actually the most frequently offered solution. This eye for an eye, bite mark for slobbery bite mark approach was just a bit too biblical for me. Seemed like a gateway to summoning plagues of locusts onto his pack and play. Pass.
2.) Flick his ear. But they’re so cuuuuuuuuute!!!! Physical reprimands just aren’t part of my parenting repertoire. No thank you. Besides, just look at the itty bitty things!
3.) Redirection. This one sounded a bit more reasonable, but logistically it seemed unlikely. “Pardon me, son. I can’t help but notice you latched onto my shoulder like a lamprey. But perhaps I could interest you in a warm scone and the new issue of Architectural Digest?” Just didn’t see it going down like that. Next…
4.) Offer him teriyaki flavored beef jerky. Because hickory smoked will only feed his bloodlust? Are you kidding me with this? Am I raising some sort of wolf man whose incisors must tear flesh asunder? Once I start solving my parenting woes with cured meats the issue at hand becomes much greater. Forget it.
In the end, we went with a firmly administered “No no! No biting!” coupled with impotently enforced time outs. I’m sure we can attribute the end of the biting to the natural sunset of yet another odd baby phase. But I can say for certain it was definitely not the product of retaliatory biting or dried beef products. So in case you’re keeping score, that’s parents – 1 internet – 0.