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Road Trip, Take 2

This past weekend we drove to visit my new
nephew – 5 weeks old and counting – and of course see
my brother and his wife as well. It’s a six-hour drive that
we haven’t done since Maddie was 8 ½ months, and I
have to confess that I was nervous about the twelve hours in a car
over two days.

Silly me.

As if we could make it in six hours now that Maddie’s

Last time we hit the road for such a long
drive, Maddie had been crawling for less than a week. Now
she’s been running for months, and is not nearly so content
to be pinned down for long periods of time. She’s no dummy;
she knows you’re cheating her of some prime playground hours
somewhere. Over the summer we went through a particularly rough
patch of a month or so, when she’d scream bloody murder if
she was forced to sit in a car seat or stroller for longer than
fifteen minutes at a time. She’s evened out a bit – or
we’d never had survived our long vacation travel days –
but I still knew we’d need to build in a stop or two along
the way for her to stretch her legs.

Not too many, though, or we’d never lure her back into a car
seat. It’s that tipping point you have to estimate: how many
times can I take my child out of a car seat and put her back in,
before she digs in her heels and refuses to fold? How much peace
will that 20-minute park break really buy me in the long run?

So the six-hour drive became a 7 ½ or 8 hour drive, and we
made our peace with that. It simply takes longer to get from A to B
now, and that’s ok. I know that when we stop for lunch,
we’re not getting back in the car until Maddie’s pooped
(the kid’s like clockwork) and we’ve changed the
diaper. And if that requires 30 minutes of running around or 45
minutes, that’s what we’re doing.

I was also concerned that with no place to run and no favorite toys
around, Maddie would become bored in a car for 7 ½ hours.

Silly me.

I forgot to take into account the fact that for Maddie, a 7
½ hour car trip equals 7 ½ hours with a captive

Yes, Maddie, Brian, Gamma, and I were all enthralled (or at least
faked it convincingly) for the entire way down and back. Maddie
told jokes. Maddie sang songs. We pretended to understand them, and
laughed or applauded accordingly.

The person who really bore the brunt of Maddie’s demands
–er, attention – was my mother. She rode in the back
with Madeleine the whole way (thanks to my motion sickness), and
unflaggingly read books, offered snacks, made up hand songs, and
more. We had a bag packed of small toys, which Maddie promptly went
through in the first half-hour of the trip. Maddie snuggled with
Elmo, dressed and undressed dolly, played with the stretchy ball,
magnadoodled: you name it, she did it.

Maddie’s favorite toy the whole trip, though, was Gamma
herself. Waking up from a nap, Maddie would immediately look over
at her new Best Buddy, smile and pat her happily on the arm.
“Wake up! Time to play some more!” And God bless her,
my mom was always up to the challenge. Thanks to Super Grandma,
Madeleine never melted down, never complained above a whimper,
never missed a nap, and in general had a great weekend.

One unintended side effect, though – Maddie’s
relationship with her grandmother, always close, has grown
ridiculously tight-knit. To the point that if it were possible,
Maddie would carry Gamma into the crib with her at night-night
time. Any time Gamma went to the bathroom or even to stretch her
legs, Madeleine would start sobbing as if Elmo had announced his
retirement. As I write this, my mother is playing with Madeleine in
the other room: I had to call earlier today and arrange a time for
Gamma to come over to “play” before Maddie would eat
her lunch.

It’s a love-love relationship with absolutely no down sides.
Am I jealous? Nope. Are you crazy? Anything that buys me a few
minutes cessation from “Up! Up! Up!” is a gift horse
not to be looked in the mouth.

So we have a new rule in this household. Gamma must now come on all
road trips.

Sorry, mom. You’re too good at your job.


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