As I write this, I am not sure if this is narrative of my life over the past 2 days or a confession.
Perhaps it's both.
Now, I've never thought of myself as "high maintenance." I don't wear a ton of make-up. My wardrobe is pretty laid back. Most weeks, I am lucky to get 4 showers (do the math...that's, at best, a shower every other day). I guess that's the life of a busy stay-at-home mom.
So, I felt ready to take on the challenge of not having a car for a few days. Hubby came home on Monday with the news that his car "was wobbly, like not just the steering or alignment, but the actual wheel. It definitely needs to go into the shop and I shouldn't drive it." (Note: my car often makes funny noises or wobbles or careens or conjures new dashboard lights that I don't recognize. Is it bad that I just pretend I don't notice these things? So far, it has worked, and the issues disappear. And the car hasn't blown up. This is a plus in my book). Now, I knew what Hubby's words meant. It meant that he would take my car to work, leaving me without any means of transportation until 3:30pm.
"I can handle this. No problem! I am a resourceful, low-maintenance woman! I bet I won't even notice not having a car!"
Oh, sweet little simple-minded me.
By the end of day 2, it was like a bad episode of Survivor. Except there were no dangerous insects and there were, sadly, no immunity challenges.
Little Chica wakes up late. Like an hour late. Usually, I love this, as it means I get to sleep in and get a few things done before I have to run up and get her. But not this day. This day, a late wake-up means that her schedule is thrown off, which means meals are thrown off, which means nap is thrown off.
I hate being thrown off.
Especially when I don't have a car.
So, I finally poked my head into her room an hour after she usually wakes up. She was working on waking up. Good, I thought. We do the normal routine of diaper change, clothing change and head downstairs for breakfast. A late breakfast. I noticed that starting at breakfast, Little Chica was...cranky. Maybe it was from sleeping late. Maybe it was the grey, dismal weather. Maybe it was because she knew we'd be stranded at home. But there it was: cranky.
After breakfast, I looked at the clock, noting we'd have about 2.5 hours until lunch, followed by a nap. This was my refuge. My hope. My motivation and strength. So, I employed every creative ounce in my body, racking my brain for indoor activities for a toddler.
I am still learning how to entertain a toddler.
Here is the struggle with toddlers: they want to play and be stimulated. They need to expend energy. They also have the attention span of a fruit fly. A really immature fruit fly. They get bored easily.
And while we have the run of my mom's reasonably-sized house all day, it's still not 100% baby-proofed. So, I end up containing Little Chica to the den area, and I have to be vigiliant to her whereabouts and activities outside of this room.
So for 2 days, we were confined to 1 room of the house. For several hours. We played with toys. We stacked blocks. We colored. We visited Mommy's room. We danced. We sang. We chased each other. We visited Starfall's website. And yes, gulp, we watched some tv (it was children's tv, to my defense).
But, Little Chica's crankiness still erupted. Of all the days to deal with Cranky, this was not in my Top 5. I pushed the envelope of lunchtime, 30 minutes early, as I ran out of ideas to keep her happy.
This was a bad idea.
For whatever reason, Little Chica chose this day to be particularly irritated at lunch. I'm not just talking about being persnickety over what meal choices I made for her. I'm talking about a passionate tantrum over the food. I normally pick out a meal and she eats it. I try to pick things that Little Chica likes. Today, despite the favorites upon her plate, she shook her head and just cried.
With some screaming thrown in at times.
I was at a loss. This is what I have for you. You like this stuff, I tried to reason. But there was no reasoning. Not with a 17-month old. Who was stranded at home with her MOM. So, I ignored her. I let her chill herself out. And I was finally able to get half of a cheese sandwich into her. Once the food hit her stomach, she was open to the original choices I had placed in front of her.
But it was a battle.
I'm not even really sure who won.
So after lunch, as per the usual, we went up and got ready for Nap Time. Little Chica is a great napper, and she usually just falls asleep shortly after I leave her room.
Not this day.
No, on this day, Little Chica talked, babbled, whined, threw things and whined some more. What the heck? I wondered. After letting her go on for an hour, I decided to assess the situation. If there was anything I needed this day, it was for Little Chica to nap. So I re-entered the room only to find that she had pooped.
Of course she had pooped.
I quickly changed her and plopped her back into her crib, and left the room to a very sadangrytired child. Within 5 minutes, though, there was silence. The sun came out. All was right in the world.
I could not have been more grateful.
I spent the next 2 hours recuperating from the day's earlier events. I knew once Nap Time was over, Hubby would be home, and we could fight the battle together.
When Hubby arrived home to much cheering and fanfare (from me), his phone rang. I was sad to hear from the mechanic that the car would not be ready that day. I silently cried and a piece of my soul departed from my body.
One more day of Mommy Survivor.
I'm not sure I had the strength.
I hadn't even showered.
I started Day 2 armed and ready. I had snacks on hand. New activities to burn away the minutes. And I prayed and prayed and prayed that Little Chica woke up on time.
She did. She even woke up a bit early for me.
The rest of the morning on Day 2 went by with much more ease than Day 1. There were the obvious signs of boredom here and there (ie: whining, throwing things, mini-tantrums), but they were few and far between. We made it to lunch time with time to spare. I fixed up every favorite food I could for Little Chica. Eating was not my hill to die on this day. Nap time approached, and Little Chica went down without so much as a peep.
And then, freedom. Sweet, sweet 3-hour freedom.
Despite the redemption Day 2 brought to my week, I was still suffering from a mild case of Cabin Fever. I hadn't left the house in two and a half days. It was time for some air. We picked up the car (whose only problem, by the way, was low tire pressure). I got a hair cut.
And today, I went to Target.
It was glorious.
All this may seem dramatic to you. And until this week, I would have thought the same thing. But being stranded at home with a toddler can be quite a daunting task to the unsuspecting mother. I've given some thought to the contributing factors. Here is what I've come up with:
1) I didn't realize how often I leave the house. I probably take a quick trip once a morning, most mornings, to someplace. To the bank. To the grocery store. To the mall. To a friend's house. Not only am I used to the change of scenery, but I think Little Chica has become accustomed to the outings as well. Then, one day, I make her look at my face all morning without reprieve. Well, that could get to anyone.
2) Little Chica is presently an only child. At this point in her life, there is no one her age to play with. No older or younger sibling (or neighbor, even) to entertain her, imagine with her, make her laugh, to occupy her time. It occurred to me that whenever we get around to having #2, he or she will never really be "alone." There will always be an older sister to run around with. And vice versa.
3) Little Chica is only 17-months old. Now, many of you parents out there with children in the same age range might have a perfectly-behaved toddler. Your toddler might be able to entertain him/herself for more than 60 seconds. Your toddler might always be cheerful. Your toddler might not have such a strong opinion to things. And on your street, the sun might always be shining. My toddler just isn't like that. She likes fresh air, new things, a change of scenery. She has a personality and a lot of emotions. And I love that about her. But along with that comes energy that needs an outlet and a desire for being social.
4) It's wintertime and freezing outside. Had the weather been Spring-like, Little Chica and I could have whiled away the hours outside in the yard, taking walks to various places, enjoying the fresh air. Being outside would have opened a completely new world to being without a car. I don't even think I would have felt stranded. But presently it's, like, 20 degrees outside. No new world, door closed.
Maybe I am just being a big selfish baby about the whole thing. Maybe I really am high-maintenance and I need to face that. Some of you out there might think I'm a big, prissy wimp. Or, just maybe, other mothers experience the same exact thing at some point in their parenthood.
Either way, I know I am not the only one.
And I hope it's a LONG time before one of our cars needs to go to the shop.