Riding in Cars with Babies

Driving five hours to Oswego was my happy place. I remember being a freshman in college, (of course then it took about six hours because I was a new driver and afraid to go above the speed limit) and thinking as I was carpooling with friends “this is just the best.” We would sing songs, eat junk food and drive away from our parents houses towards FREEDOM and “adulthood.” (Sorry mom!)

By senior year, everyone had their own cars and no one carpooled anymore. Plus, I stayed during the summer months so my “driving home” schedule was different from everyone else’s. Sometimes I would just get in my car and go but other times I would play a little game. Just a side note: I think for every shot I took in college I lost a couple memories so by the time I was graduating, I swear my memory was terrible. So this game I used to play was to pick a time in my life, a past friendship, a certain school year, a family vacation, etc. and make a playlist of songs that I remembered listening to during that time period. On the way home I would listen to these songs and think in as much detail as I could and it would bring me back. I would remember conversations, meals, jokes, the way I felt in a certain moment and before I knew it I was walking through my front door. I would get lost in these memories until the present just faded away. Then, I was home.

Fast forward three and a half years and I am physically wrestling my screaming toddler into her car seat. Any efforts to help by family members standing by only make her scream louder and I am completely straight-faced, pretending to be unphased by the total chaos happening all around me. Who would have known that all of the theater productions I had participated in as a teenager were all just preparing me for the greatest role of my theater career; playing a calm, at peace mother in a dramatic toddler’s world.

We had spent the morning at Mike’s parents house and would be travelling to my sister’s house about an hour away to spend the afternoon. So this was it, this had to be nap time. Generally L is pretty well behaved in the car, assuming she is entertained with her favorite songs, snacks, watching the windows open and shut or anything else I can think of. However, I wanted this opportunity for her to nap so I wanted as little stimulation as possible. I put on a few of her favorite songs hoping they would lull her to sleep but she was not interested in ANY of the songs she normally likes. Because she was TIRED, but of course she doesn’t know that.

After SCREAMING in protest to six or seven different songs, I was losing my mind. I have a noise machine app on my phone that I used for her when she sleeps anywhere but home and I put it on in the car using the Bluetooth setting. So now, I’m on a Long Island parkway, in stand still traffic, with the sound of pouring rain blasting through the car speakers and L screaming at the top of her lungs, “DAW DONE! DAW DONE! DAW DONE!” (That’s “all done,” for anyone who may not speak toddler.)

For a moment, I genuinely worry about making it out of this car ride with my sanity still in tact. Then it happens, REALLY loud rain noises in the speakers and silence in the back seat. I’m not sure I have every felt more relieved until I look around and realize we are 10 minutes from my sister’s house. Cue more internal panic. Is this some sort of joke? Confession: the worry for my sanity lasted way more than a moment..

So, with the sound of rain pouring during a beautiful, warm and sunny day I drive right on past my sister’s house to give L a couple extra minutes of a nap. I drive around in circles for 30 minutes, until I look at the clock and it was in reality only 6 minutes! “SIX MINUTES. Is it just me or does time actually move slower when you need to ‘kill’ time? I think I may actually want to KILL time in this very moment.” These are the thoughts coursing through my brain as I’m circling around the same block forty five times.

I finally reach a point where L has been napping for 30 minutes, and pretty much exceeded my quota of how many times you can look at the same 20 houses, so I pull into my sister’s driveway and turn the car off and the toddler shrieking resumes. She is PISSED. Then I say “want to go see the puppy?” with my voice getting a little higher pitched at the end, like it does when you’re asking a question, desperate to get the answer you’re looking for. While I am glad she immediately stopped crying and smiled while chanting “Puppy! Puppy!” it was also completely infuriating that she can just so quickly forget all the stress of that car ride. A special shout out to my sister for simply owning a dog and as a result saving me from a mommy meltdown.

How did car rides go from a time of mental meditation to mental agony? I’m not sure I will ever be calmed by the sound of falling rain again. It’s in stressful times like these I am reminded why babies are so stinkin’ cute!

Looking back now, I envy L’s ability to let things go so quickly. I am constantly amazed by how much I learn from her, even in the moments that may be perceived as bad ones while I am in them. But none of these moments last forever and I think it is important to find beauty in them all. Hopefully since my days of taking shots at an Oswego bar every night are (mostly) over, I’ll be able to actually remember these lessons she is always teaching me about myself and use it to stay calm both on the outside AND the inside. Either that OR we can just get a puppy for her to wake up to every morning 😉

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8 thoughts on “Riding in Cars with Babies”

  1. Love your writing! I feel your anxiety and love. Being a mom is so difficult and a roller coaster of emotion. Sounds like you are doing a great job! Lock yourself in the bathroom, take a deep breath and even a moment to cry, but know, It goes by soooo quickly! xxooo

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    1. Thank you! Motherhood is the best and most exciting challenge I’ve ever faced and I absolutely love (almost) everything about it. Having a creative outlet is the best thing for my personal mental health and I love seeing that other people enjoy my writing!

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  2. I vote for the puppy! (Just because I’m a dog groomer/lover and who doesn’t want a puppy) but this post just like your first one is so relatable and I only have a 5 month old! I haven’t necessarily experienced too much mom anxiety (2x) I’m sure as he gets older it will catch up to me. Keep writing!

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