Plane, train or automobile…
Last Saturday…no, wait, has it been that long?
I mean the Saturday before last, as in the 27th July, was the most trying day of my life.
And it was also the most rewarding day of my parenting life.
Oh, the paradoxes of parenthood. I think I’m getting better at spotting, living and dealing with them.
See, Krys was in Norway last month and has now got a renewed fever for mountain or trail biking. I’m not sure what it’s actually called, but it involves cycling in the mountains…along trails… I’m presuming, but you never know.
So anyhoo, he ordered a new bike from one of his favourite stores, only the store happens to be in Belfast.
In all my nearly 12 years living in Ireland, I’ve been to Northern Ireland once and that was only for half a day to Newry, so when Krys asked if we wanted to make a day out of it and all go as a family, I thought, why the heck not? I love trains, there’s space for Roz to run around and climb seats, there are toilets on board so hopefully no toilet accidents.
By the way, did I tell you she’s fully out of nappies in the day now?
…She’s fully out of nappies in the day now. Woohoo!
We had to get the 9:40 am train from Connolly station in the city, which meant we had to leave the house at 8am to be in with a chance of getting there without running.
We’re usually rubbish at early morning starts, but since we had bought the tickets online and Krys would have literally defecated some building materials if we didn’t leave on time, we packed extra clothes, underwear, rainproof clothes, snacks, water and all the other things one needs when travelling with a recently potty trained toddler, the night before.
Krys decided that we would not have breakfast at home, but would get something in teh city instead, to make sure we were on the 8am bus…and in case that didn’t show up, at least we would still have time if we caught the 8:20 bus.
So all went well, we got to the city, ate, and went at a leisurely stroll to the train station and got on a fully packed Dublin to Belfast train. Then we realised we had forgotten all or Roz’s toys. apart from Cookie monster, whom she’s allowed to carry only because he’s small and can fit into my handbag with no fuss, we had zip, zero, zilch. no paper, no crayons, no play-doh, nothing.
We had paid for Roz to have her own seat, and sat at a four seat section, but it meant some poor woman was seated with us, and we were very very aware that Roz can be, well, very “spirited” I believe is the word. So we started the trip by apologising in advance for any tears or tantrums that might occur. and that’s just the parents.
you know what? It was a hard trip. Roz wanted to play and explore and write on the tables with the only thing I had in my bag – a highlighter. she wanted to sing at the top of her lungs, she wanted to explore but was scared of the sections in-between carriages where the train lurched from side to side and she would lose her footing. And she wanted to nurse, boy did she beg to nurse, but with such a packed and crowded train, I didn’t feel comfortable with feeding her in the clothes I had on, which would have meant exposing way more flesh than I was comfortable with, and her popping off and my flashing the train would have been inevitable. So yes, she was very upset most of the time, despite our attempts to distract and keep her entertained.
It’s only a two hour trip but ye gods, it felt like at least five!
When we got to Belfast, we had to walk, fast, to get a bus that would take us to the outskirts of Belfast to get the bike, so Roz was only allowed about ten minutes to wander around a small park and stretch her legs. We got on the bus and I let her nurse because it was so quiet and the poor thing had only started to dose off when we had to get off and get Krys’ bike.
that took about a half hour which she spent exploring all the tents in the store, and we popped into Ikea for lunch.Remember, this whole time I’ve had to keep her closely reigned in on the train, the bus, in the store, she was like a coil of energy getting tighter and tighter.
As we were finishing our lunch, Krys left because he had to cycle back to the train station while we took the bus, and Roz said to me,
“Mummy, I need to run around for a little bit”
and it just nearly broke my heart.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that she’s got so much vocabulary and can communicate so well that I don’t have to second guess what she wants most times, but it also means that yes, I can get what she wants most of the time.
All the poor kid wanted to do was run around the place and looking at the bus timetable, I knew we had maybe ten minutes max to get our bus back to the train station.
Of course there were tears and a very dense tantrum when I insisted we had to go. so much so that on the bus she cried,
“I want boo-boo. I want boo-boo.”
And how could I possibly not allow her her one comfort? I couldn’t. she nursed all the way back into the city and to the train station. and then of course, we would have to go through another two hours back to Dublin.
luckily, the train wasn’t as full, so we could move around a lot more and let her play before another fast walk to the bus stop and home.
So what is it I learnt from that day?
That it’s bloody hard being a toddler. your whole life is mapped out by decisions made by other people on your behalf. I could feel my little girl’s frustration and distress and there was nothing I could do about it because I had caused this.
As Krys and I sat in the living room and talked about the day over shots of whiskey (joking!), we knew we should have taken a later train from Belfast to give her time to explore and play; we knew we should have carried more things for her to play with on the train; we knew it probably would have been best to just let Krys go on his own, because at the end of the day, we all ended up being frustrated and tired.
But what did we gain from the day? Well, neither of us totally lost it at any point during the day. Not even a little bit. We took turns when each of us needed a break, chatting to Roz and taking her to the toilet to give the other parent those precious five minutes to themselves to gather up whatever reserves they had, and neither of us let the frustration of the day get the better of them.
I was very proud of us. It would have been far too easy to go into a sulk or start yelling.
So for that, we patted each other on the back and filed away the experience, never to be repeated.
I’m starting to learn that it’s in the hard times that you find out what sort of person and parent you can be.
right now, it’s a conscious effort, but one day, it’ll be like riding a bike.