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Life Outside The Bubble

I hate to admit it, but I’m still waking up most mornings and wishing I were back in my luxury resort. I need a few moments to reorient myself, to realize that no, there is no room service bringing us our fresh waffles, and yes, I do have to do the laundry.

But in many ways it’s great to be back. As much as Maddie loved her new experiences and plush surroundings, she’s pretty ecstatic to be back in her controlled environment. Her shout of glee at seeing her bouncy horse when we entered the house for the first time was topped only by the uncontrollable squeals that escaped her when she first laid eyes on her beloved playground.

And as much as I loved having so much taken care of for me on vacation, I’m happy to be back in the saddle, holding the reins of this family. Our vacation was our first foray into The Real World – the one where I can’t control how much light is coming into baby girl’s room, or guarantee that she’ll have fresh steamed veggies for dinner. One of my biggest apprehensions about our trip was that precise lack of control – my inability to dominate most aspects of my daughter’s surroundings. 

I knew before we left home that I’d have to lighten up on my standards; there’s simply no way to be as careful with her food intake when I’m not the one preparing everything. We’re trying, for example, to avoid junk food (except the occasional slice of New York pizza) and refined sugar in Maddie’s diet. Until our trip, she’d eat yogurt for lunch, but it would be plain whole milk yogurt with homemade pureed fruit added; no extra sugar. On the road, though, I knew I had to be grateful for whatever YoBaby I could find, and not stress about it.

Likewise with the television. We’ve made the conscious decision to not allow Maddie to watch TV before age 2, following the AAP’s recommendations. If you’ve made a different choice, that’s fine; I’m not going to lecture you or act superior. It’s simply what we’ve decided. But while at the outlet mall, I walked into a Gymboree store and began shopping, only to hear Elmo’s voice from a television in the back of the room. Maddie’s ears perked up and she ran back. It was her friend! Elmo! And look, he actually talks and waves at you, rather than just dances when you push his foot! Did I drag her away from the tube, shielding her eyes, and leave the store, spouting righteous statistics?

Nope. The kid watched Elmo, and it’s fine.

I’m not trying to say that Madeleine lives in some sort of hyper-sterile, rigidly controlled environment; we flex her nap times when need be, and occasionally don’t have a veggie every day (well, except veggie booty) if I’ve run out and it’s not grocery day. But all in all, I’ve been able to shape her world, making it a comforting, reassuring place for her to grow, both physically and in independence. My mother-in-law once told me that having a kid means bringing home a baby and building a fence right around him, tight and cosy. You then spend the rest of your life constantly tearing down those fences, rebuilding them a bit further out, watching him grow, tearing them down, rebuilding further out, and so on. Losing that control during our vacation – pushing back a bit more the fences that surround and protect her – was both scary, and comforting. Scary, because I have to allow my hand to hover a little further away as I watch her try to stand and not fall. And comforting, because I realized that something like sleeping in a room much brighter than she’s accustomed to wasn’t going to permanently change her sleep habits; kids are surprisingly adaptable. It takes a lot more than a different kind of yogurt to throw my girl off her game.

I was, however, reminded of another reason why we limit Maddie’s experiences. One day poolside, I ordered a cold drink brought to my lounge chair – a mix of pineapple and orange juice and a dash of grenadine. I know, life was rough. Leaving the drink on a low table, I bent over to dig out Maddie’s cup of soy milk. When I looked up, she was standing over my juice, Hoovering every drop she could out with a straw. Keeping in mind this was her first experience with juice of any kind, much less the pineapple she’s mildly allergic to, I was a bit apprehensive.

Madeleine stopped drinking when she saw me staring. She was frozen for a moment, eyes big as saucers. Then she frantically began signing “More! More! More!” as fast as her hands would go.

See? Introduce your kids to sugar, and suddenly you have to share. 


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