We just got back from a wonderful weekend away as a family. We traveled to Madison, WI, to visit some friends, a trip I had been looking forward since the getaway was booked. When we lived in Columbia we took weekend trips often, with friends and family an easy two hours away there was always an occasion or trip to be taken and our life sans children and residency offered such fabulous freedom. A weekend was unashamedly our own. We could leave at 4:30pm on a Friday and return to our apartment Sunday evening without much thought or effort.
Since moving to Minnesota, we've yet to venture much further than a day trip to the cities for Ikea- with most friends in town and family a good day's drive away there's been little interest or opportunity in going out of town for the weekend. That, and Chris' schedule is often demanding and a bit unpredictable. But this weekend had been planned and anticipated and as soon as Chris made it home Friday evening we knew we were free for a Madison adventure. I was so looking forward to seeing a new city, visiting friends, eating at tasty restaurants and staying in a lush hotel (thank you Priceline!).
The weekend was absolutely wonderful. The company was the best, with lots of laughter and depth and an appreciation for people who know your story and have lived life with you over the years- something you miss when you leave home for a new place. We ate our way through Madison, enjoying a fantastic feast of the best local fare our host could offer. We swam in the hotel pool and chilled in the hotel hot tub. We had breakfast out and sat around drinking coffee in the most wonderfully unproductive way. But we also came home completely exhausted and a bit perplexed by our daughter's behavior.
There was no one specific moment that could be defined as horrific, she just refused to stay seated through a meal, wanted to walk through the restaurant while we waited for our table, put everything she could find in the hotel room in her mouth, cried when we strapped her in the car seat, wrestled her way out of the stroller, and whined that she was hungry in between meals. She is 18 months, after all. I suppose that's what kids that age do.
Chris and I chatted about our frustration on the car ride home. We'd spent the morning having a late breakfast at Einstein's Bagel with our friends before we hit the road. We'd probably sat in the restaurant a good hour and a half, squeezing the most out of our remaining time. Nothing that Lakin did could be classified as awful but she began to get very impatient and whiny. At one point I took her outside to have a time out and talk about her behavior. She came back in a new girl... for another 15 minutes and then she was wrestling me to get down and running from me when I went after her. We left quicker than we would have liked and with a child throwing a full on fit.
As we debriefed with a zonked out toddler in the backseat, we realized, perhaps we expect a bit much out of our 18 month old. Don't get me wrong, high expectations are good and important, but I think sometimes we need a dose of reality. We packed up our kid, threw her completely off her schedule, made her sleep in a playpen cage, and waited to feed her a good two hours past her typical eating time- given all that, a meltdown might have been inevitable.
Sometimes it's a hard pill to swallow that life is and has changed as you become a parent. I do believe it's good to stretch kids and that they are more flexible than some adults give them credit for. However, there is a difference between stretching a kid and asking for a fit. It's a bit of a fine line, one Chris and I are often stumped about, but it's there. For all the things that have changed that we mourn, there are so many things that I have gained in becoming Lakin's mother that I'd never ever want to give up. I mean, this morning I was woken up with these big blue eyes in my face and a finger poking my side as Lakin whispered, "Mommy. Asleep. Shhhhh." She makes me laugh in a way no one else can and without even trying.
So life is different. At times it leaves me embarrassed or exasperated. But it's good. And worth it. Just hard. Only sometimes.