Tiring out a toddler
We all miss our beds when away from home — but toddlers take it to another level.
Before kids, Spencer and I would often get away for the weekend or travel last-minute to visit family or friends. I thought nothing of packing a toothbrush and hitting the road. After becoming parents, of course, that changed entirely; it was just too complicated and stressful to be away from home (and all of Oliver’s stuff).
The first few times we traveled with our young son, I began packing far in advance. My own travel routine was so old hat that I barely considered what I might want; it was all about predicting how many diapers we’d need, onesies we’d go through, bottles we’d use. I was the epitome of a nervous first-time par- ent, and some of those jitters occasionally nag at me.
Still, Oliver took his first short plane ride at four months old and another last Christmas. The first was a breeze. The sec- ond still gives me nightmares. We’ve flown nowhere since, and that’s no accident.
To be honest, flying with an infant was probably 100 times easier than flying with a toddler now would be. Oliver does not sit still, and it takes massive amounts of bribery with Teddy Graham cookies and his favor- ite books to keep him seated for more than two minutes. That would definitely be no problem on a cramped airplane.
When we’re home, this isn’t an issue. My husband and I re- moved anything overtly dangerous months ago, and Ollie has his run of the downstairs. Be- cause being a parent requires constantly scanning to deter- mine any way an inventive child might injure themselves, I’m always moving things to high- er ground — but for the most part, Ollie keeps to his favor- ite “spots” and doesn’t disturb much. (Aside from the Christ- mas tree, as we’ve already ex- plored. But you get the idea.)
When we’re out and about, however, this becomes a chal- lenge. We took advantage of a long weekend in October to meet up with my mother- and father-in-law in Bedford, Pa., where we wandered through craft fairs in the pouring rain and fought to keep Oliver in his stroller. The whole weekend was one long tussle. And when night fell? Well. In hindsight, my thriftiness in wanting to share a hotel room with my in-laws, husband and baby was not my brightest idea. But I figured it would only be for two nights, would save us some cash . . . and how awful could it really be?
I knew we were in for trouble when Oliver was still tearing through the hotel room at 9 p.m., laughing loudly with wide eyes. He had just taken his first steps a week or two earlier and was obsessed with learning to run. He’s fast — especially when he wants to get away from his exhausted parents — and I figured he would just tire himself out eventually. He didn’t. By 10 p.m., 11 p.m., midnight, we were dealing with a tired-but-miserable toddler who refused to sleep in his pack-and-play, a makeshift crib that is perfectly comfortable but still not “his” bed. My mother- and father-in-law, typically early to bed and early to rise, were just as sleepless as we were.
It had been months since we’d traveled, but Oliver had done fine in July. At his grandparents’ home. Where he was comfortable with his surroundings, I suppose. But when we’d gone to the Outer Banks earlier in the summer, Ollie would not fall asleep unless he was in his car seat — a fact Spencer and I later attributed to teething and a developing cold while also being away from home. Poor guy was just out of sorts. That wouldn’t be repeated, right?
Lesson learned in Pennsyl- vania. We eventually took Ollie out to the car sometime in the middle of the night after hours of him fretfully falling asleep for 30 minutes in our bed only to wake up screaming all over again.
Ollie did eventually snooze — but only after we’d circled downtown Bedford for nearly an hour, the lone car muddling along the narrow roads. I’m sur prised someone didn’t report a suspicious vehicle to the police. All Spencer and I wanted was to rest alongside Oliver, but we knew we couldn’t move him; those dark eyes would spring open if we tried to go inside.
We eventually parked in front of our hotel room and slept for an hour or two with the en- gine running — just enough to reach 6 a.m., when my in-laws would be up and able to take over for a bit. It was rough.
I want to be the type of parent who encourages their child to adapt to his surroundings, to be flexible, to roll with the punches. But we’re talking about a not-quite-2-year-old here. There will come a time — quite soon — when Oliver has to learn to sleep away from his own bed, but that October night was not it. We cut our trip short to make sure we were home by the fol- lowing evening, and that kid slept like a log for 12 hours. He clapped when we walked in the front door.
This weekend is a family wedding in Gettysburg, Pa., and I’ve been looking for ward to our impromptu reunion for months. I made reservations to stay one night at the swanky hotel where my cousin will be married long before that Bedford weekend. In its aftermath, however, I found myself thinking about going through another sleepless night with an inconsolable Ollie . . . and after debating the pros and cons with Spencer, I canceled our reservation. We’ll just drive up and back tomorrow.
It’s not ideal — and definitely not the relaxing night away I would have loved in my pre-parenthood days. But you know what I love more than traveling? A happy kid. One who isn’t awake all night, disoriented and angry.
And with Spencer driving, I might catch a little rest . . . especially after all the dining and dancing.
We’ll tire Oliver out yet.