Monday, May 24, 2010

Silly, Parents. Car Trips are for...Three-Year-Olds?

I suspect that this won't be the first time that we make a dumb decision, and I pray that our other dumb decisions are as relatively harmless. Here's what happened: Jason's cousin Andrew got engaged to a great woman named Tracy. Andrew and Tracy invited us to their wedding outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. We decided to go. We decided to drive. With Hadley. 500 miles.

It sounds foolish now, I know. But when we decided to go--via car--we thought, "Well, Hadley will have her new forward-facing car seat by then. She'll dig it. We'll stop every so often. She'll probably sleep most of the way. She'll love it!"

So there you go. Dumb decision supported by the most ridiculous reasoning (or non-reasoning, as it is more aptly called) we could have dreamt up.

Here's what happened next: As Friday, our day of departure, drew nearer, I began to worry a bit. Could Hadley really make it 500 miles strapped into the car? Did we have the energy to entertain her for, oh, eight hours? What would we do if she had a breakdown mid-way?

But for each of these misgivings, I had a response: Hadley is a great traveler (on the airplane). She plays well by herself. Breakdown? My child doesn't have breakdowns.

So we packed half of what we own (or rather, half of what Hadley owns) into Jason's car and headed out on Friday morning. We felt so brave, so familial, so...National Lampoon's Baby Vacation. Hadley was great for an hour. She looked at her books, looked out the window, ate a snack, blabbered her super-cute baby talk. Then I turned around to check on her, and she grabbed the straps on her car seat and scrinched up her nose, as only Hadley can do. Then she gave me the "all done" sign. Clear. As. Day.

Oh, crap. Oh-crap-oh-crap-oh-crap. One hour? We had made it to Ft. Morgan. So we got off at an exit, parked in the McDonald's lot and proceeded to try to help Hadley fall asleep. Let's just say that episode lasted 45 minutes and involved Jason rocking Hadley in his arms in a nearby Baptist church sanctuary. We must have looked a bit distraught because after we gave up trying to get Hadley to fall asleep, the pastor came out and asked if he could pray for us before we went on our way. Um, yes. Remember when God put Adam to sleep while He created Eve? We wanted THAT kind of sleep for Hadley, please.

We didn't get it.

Instead, we got grumpiness. We got fidgeting. And then I looked at Jason in the rearview mirror (I was driving and he was taking a turn entertaining Hadley), and said, "Do you think we can make it?" And he said, "Nope, I don't think we can." At this point, we had gone 100 miles...and we'd been gone from home for two-and-a-half hours. At that rate, our trip would take 12 hours, not the eight or so we had planned.

After hemming and hawing for another 15 minutes, we finally decided to turn around. We stopped in Ft. Morgan again and ate lunch, and then Hadley fell asleep and slept the last 90 minutes home.

We were disappointed--and mad at ourselves. We would miss the wedding and a visit with Hadley's Grandma, Grandpa and Auntie Crystal, not to mention a swath of extended family she's never even met. Why didn't we think to buy plane tickets? Why did we think that driving 500 miles with a very busy, very active one-year-old would be a good idea? Are we crazy?

Nope, not crazy, we decided after we beat ourselves up for a few hours. Just first-time parents. Rookies with a quixotic notion of road-tripping with our baby girl.

Friday evening, we unpacked the car and laughed when we thought about how Hadley viewed our day. "Mom? Dad? That Subway in Ft. Morgan was a nice place, but there's a Subway--and about six other places to get a sandwich--three miles from our house. No need to drive quite so far next time."

We spent our long weekend together, planting our garden (lettuce, bell peppers, tomatoes, basil, rosemary--oh, I can't wait!) and playing. We were disappointed to miss the wedding, but there was something very sweet about having time together that we hadn't expected to have. Hadley played outside a lot. We took her to the children's museum, out to breakfast (twice), on walks to the park, to the grocery store (which she loves). We played a lot of peek-a-boo and read a lot of books. ("Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me.")

And I think we forgave ourselves for our ridiculous notion. Jason kept saying, "Nobody died. Nobody's hurt." And it's true. It would have been great to celebrate with Andrew and Tracy, but in the grand scheme, we have to see this mishap as a tiny mark on our parenting record. We'll make more mistakes, bigger mistakes, but I hope that we find grace even in those bigger mistakes like we found it this weekend.

Now, because no post is complete with a few photos of Hadley, here are some photos from her birthday celebration. More to come, I promise.


  1. No matter the age, we parents are always learning! You were missed, but the three of you got home safely and that is the main thing. I am glad you posted pictures, as you said, no post is complete without pictures of Hadley :-) Adorable!!

  2. I know how disappointed you all were, but you did the right thing by turning around. We love all of you and can't wait to see you soon :) The pics of the bday party are great!! Love you all :)