Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Car Seat Madness

Five ways to make baby cry:

1. Do not feed baby
2. Do not let baby sleep
3. Allow baby fall off couch on to head
4. Steal candy from baby (not there yet, but heard it will happen)
5. Strap baby in car seat and drive over 1000 miles.

I have only been at the fathering thing for about four months, but I know those five things to be true. I was just able to confirm the last one this past week. My wife and I decided to take a “vacation” up to her hometown in northern Maine to visit with family. For perspective, my wife’s family lives further north than most of the Canadian population. This was not a stay-cation.

Traveling long distances over land (or by air or sea, I assume) with a baby requires quite a bit of planning. We tried our best to be in the car only during her nap times, and not make any of the rides more than 2.5 hours. We had to find some comfortable places to stop so she could be fed and changed and entertained by an actual human being. (Quick note to the Starbucks in Bangor, ME: I know it is summer and people like air-conditioned locations, but can you try to move the thermostat off of the Arctic setting? Polar bears would have been chilly in that place, never-the-less a woman with a boob hanging out and a baby wearing a sleeveless onesie). Since the ride usually totals us about 8 hours, we also had to split it up over two days. This meant that Olive (okay, I’ll start using her name now) not only had to endure four days of driving in a seven day span, but she also slept in three different locations. You might add “Spend every night in a different city and introduce her to several new people a day” as a way to make your baby cry. One way to make daddy cry is to force him to take down or put up the Chico Lullaby Playard nine times. If pissing off dads were cool, this thing would be Miles Davis. Quite possibly the Worst. Product. Ever. I remember in late March, when I spent about 90 minutes first putting it together, that I hoped and prayed that I never needed to travel with it. It served Olive well over these four months – she slept in it for the first 10 weeks of her life – but I should note that the playard was stationary during that time. The trouble begins when you try to fold and compact this behemoth. Only eight uncooperative and hidden push-buttons, four locking joints, one weird locking handle device not accessible unless you remove a piece of the playard, and four unwieldy wheels/sharp plastic feet later you have yourself a mobile plastic brick! They should rename it the Chico Playard of Frustration, or the Chico Plastic Piece of Poop. Several times over the course of the week the lack of lighter fluid and a match were the only things keeping me from sending that thing straight to hell. But I didn’t because then Olive seems to sleep well in it and I wasn’t quite ready to stuff her in the drawer of the Hampton Inn to sleep.

It was a long trip, and I’m sure that Olive is happy to be back in her own home and her own familiar, non-folding crib. But she took all the traveling like a champ. She slept most of the time we were driving and we were able to stop in Freeport, Bangor, Camden, and York, Maine to feed her and play with her. Only once did we have to feed her in a parking lot – even then it was one with a view of a coastal lighthouse. Not once did she freak out that we were in a strange place or that a place was too hot or too cold or too bright or too dark. She did cry during the last forty minutes of our trip – but by that point, we couldn’t blame her. The vacation itself hardly could have been better. Olive got to go to her first fair, where she saw her first sheep, cow, rabbit, and alpaca. She saw her first tractor and her first harness race – a big first in any child’s life. She hung out with two of her cousins that she doesn’t get to see nearly enough and lay in the grass in her grandmother’s garden across from a field of blossoming potato plants.

It wasn’t easy to strap her into that car seat every day and watch her make a face as if she was saying “seriously? This again? You know I’m going to freak out, right?” But for our own sanity, you sometimes need to get away. Cause not only is it nice to see family and breath in the salt air of the Maine Coast or watch the sun set over the rolling potato fields in Aroostook County, but it is nice to know that despite the evil playard, and the bags of diapers, and hours in the car, and long minutes of frozen breastfeeding in a starbucks, you really can get out and travel with a baby. Even if it does make them cry.

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