Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Edge

Lately I've been reminded of a time I went to Sea World when I was about 10. My beloved Grammy Fanny was with us; she used to spoil me rotten. There was an attraction called "Cap'n Kids World" and one of the things you could do was swing on a rope over a shallow pool of water. I was all over it. Grammy Fanny was skeptical. "Why don't you roll up your pants before you go? Are you sure you can hold on to that rope?" "Of course I can," I scoffed. I mean, really, what is up with grandmas? Always so negative; never fully appreciating my gymnastical genius. I grabbed the rope and swung. For maybe a second, it was glorious. I was airborn, the wind in my hair, the pool glistening beneath me. Then the second was over, and I was sitting on my ass in the pool, my jeans soaking. But I still remember the fraction of a second when I could feel the tide turn. When I went from footloose and fancy free to "Uh-oh, Grammy was right--I am going down." And that's the part of the memory that is strongest for me. There is a photo documenting the aftermath. I am averting my eyes from the camera, humiliated, my '70s-era regalia, including the tunic with butterfly sleeves, dripping. And Grammy is smirking, a twinkle in her eye and an "I told you so" on the corner of her mouth.

I recall this charming moment from my youth to make an analogy. There are moments as a mother when I am swinging from that rope in the sun, queen of the world, master of my domain. And then something shifts, and I am up to my waist in filthy water, feeling like a moron. And it happens so fast.

Yesterday Miss Jarrah and I went to visit Mary, Joy and Jen at Mary's house. We left about 10:00 in the morning. David looked uncertain. "Isn't it getting close to her nap time?" "She'll nap in the car," I said breezily, "I can't be one of those schedule moms." She did fall asleep on the way, but was plenty cheerful to be woken so she could play with Joy's toys and gobble about a pound of potato salad. Afterwards we got some coffee and window-shopped. Mary expressed her amazement how quietly Jarrah sat in her stroller. Secretly, I gloated. My baby is soooo well-behaved. I have got this DOWN. I am the MOM. :)

I stopped to do an errand at the drug store on the way home, but it ended up turning into another hour. By the time we got back here it was after 4:00. Jarrah was cheerful but I reasoned that she might sleep for an hour and wake up ready for her dinner. Man, I am good, I thought to myself. I had a fun day and now I'm going to have some free time. Yay me!

I put Jarrah in her crib and she started screaming. That didn't faze me; she often does that for a few seconds. Or maybe a minute. Or maybe five. Say, is that screaming still going on? How long has it been? My nerves were raw. I started timing it. The screams turned to shrieks, alternating with choking. I started to cave. When I realized 20 minutes had gone by without a break, I went in. She was sitting in her crib, face puffy, and when I held her, her heart was pounding and she was shaking like crazy. It took 10 minutes of holding her close just to get her calm. And after that, my friends, I had to pay. And pay and pay. For four hours, until her bed time, the only time she wasn't screaming was when I was holding her or holding onto her while she did something else. And four hours is a long time for that. When David got home, we managed to get very cranky with each other since there was nothing else to do but listen to Jarrah complain. And that felt even worse. And you better believe that somewhere in there, my shield of invincibility shattered. I realized I am not the boss. It's like all those fairy tales where the wizened crone offers some fabulous deal--pots of gold, a saved life, a much-longed-for baby--but warns there is a catch. And the catch is always something like "Later on I'm going to come back and steal your baby and/or kill you." Yet the hapless hero/heroine makes the deal anyway. I guess that's what they call a Faustian bargain. There's really no possible good outcome; there's just immediate gratification followed by a fast descent into the fiery pits of purgatory. And that, my friends, was Parental Lesson #322.

We had a few other lessons over the weekend. Parental Lesson #258: Fuddruckers is only fun for kids if the food is ready in under an hour. I'm not kidding. We arrived; I hopped in the line to order while David secured the high chair. Sweet. But then we waited. And waited. We went through a bunch of cheerios. We shredded some ketchup cups. We imbibed more than a reasonable amount of fruit punch, as did our shirt. All in all, we were remarkably patient, considering it was pushing 2:00 and none of us had eaten since breakfast. I was horrified when the server told us that the kiddie fruit cup "looks bad today" and the only other options were more fried things and cookies. Let me take a moment to kvetch about kids meals in general. What is UP with that? Are there children that eat fried chicken, french fries, soda and cookies every time they go to a restaurant? I'm always desperately searching for anything that doesn't seem fried or sugary. Jarrah wouldn't complain about the fried items, mind you, but since she also doesn't complain about broccoli, I don't see any point in loading her up with grease.

Parental Lesson # 293: One-year-olds do not watch shows of any kind, even if the show has a freakishly adorable baby elephant standing on a tiny platform and catching sticks in her mouth. They much prefer to kick the people in front of them, at which time their mothers realize with open-mouthed horror that they have become the kind of parents that they used to want to smash when their toddlers invaded my space in public. We lasted about 7 minutes at the Elephant Show at the Wild Animal Park this weekend. We won't be going to another for at least a year. And we actually felt fortunate that this event provided a cautionary tale to the altogether inescapable Wgasa Bush Railway Tram, upon which one must remain for a full 35 minutes, while the animals roam at a distance no doubt incomprehensible to a 14-month-old. Whew! We dodged a bullet on that one.

It was incredibly fun seeing Jarrah and Joy with the ducks and geese. They were both so delighted and pointed emphatically and made noises like "Uh-oh!" In general, birds of all kinds are a big hit. And I think her favorite moment was walking around the "Petting Krall" and getting up close and personal with some lovely deer. Also what I kept calling the "small deer" but turned out to be goats. ;) You'd think I was a toddler! I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't important to see elephants and tigers and the other "money shot" animals, because every furred and feathered beast is new and thrilling to our girl. There's plenty of time for the rest.


Anonymous said...

I suspect for Jarrah:
crib = prison
unless she's really tired.

She's also learned to persevere.

And what a cutie!

Best, Gail

Anonymous said...

Oh no! I had no idea I was contributing to the Great Nap Debacle. I hope the rest of the week has been better.

That picture with the hot air balloon is wonderful. Was that at the Wild Animal Park?