Before I became a mom, a beautiful Sunday in autumn meant heading north to a picturesque ski village. During the relaxing drive up, I'd admire the changing colours of the leaves on the trees lining the hillside. My hubby and I would park the car at the end of the town’s main road and stroll its entire length while window-shopping. We'd ooh and aah at the rustic fall decor each quaint shop so meticulously displayed to attract tourists. Sometimes we'd even stop in a store to buy a kitschy sculpture or knick-knack. After a few hours, our faces flushed from the late afternoon sun, we'd stop at the local coffee house for a big cup of tea or a latté and a scrumptious pastry. “La vie est belle,” the locals say. Yes, life was beautiful then.
Perhaps feeling a little nostalgic, and very adventurous, I announced to my husband this fine Sunday morning that we should take the kids up north and spend the afternoon there. It would be like the good old days, but better because we’d have our sons to share it with.
"I think it will be nice. It's such a gorgeous day. The kids will enjoy it,” I told my spouse as he gathered Lego bits off the floor and I changed snot-encrusted bed sheets.
"Sure, we can go," he replied matter-of-factly. “But it won't play out the way you've imagined it."
"I don't have any expectations," I lied. "I just think we all need to get out of here to change the routine. Plus, it'll be better than staying home."
Of course, it wasn't. I regretted the decision to venture further than our usual fifteen kilometer radius the second we hit the highway.
My much-anticipated relaxing drive was anything but. The usual “are we there yet” phrase polluted the air just minutes into the trip. Over and over, my eldest (M) kept asking for ETA’s. Any trip that is longer than five minutes is too long for him. So his incessant nagging didn’t get under my skin too much because I’m pretty used to it.
I was able to distract both my kids with a book, which I keep in the car for longer drives. M, who is learning how to read, decided he’d read aloud to his little brother (Z). Sounds nice, right? Wrong. He purposely changed words on each page to make the story silly. Z hated this and started yelling at M to read the story the right way. A screaming match ensued, followed by a wrestling match during which the book was thrown back and forth. At this point I took the book away and looked for distractions outside.
“Look boys!” I exclaimed, trying to sound cheerful as we headed up the hillside. “See all the trees and colorful leaves? Isn’t it pretty?”
“Whatever. Mom, we need a TV in here,” said M unimpressed. Z was similarly blasé.
I kept looking out the window, intent on enjoying the view, even if no one else seemed to care. That lasted all of three minutes.
My gazing was startled by some more wrestling, screaming and loud crash followed by crying. I turned around to find M and Z had fought. Z won this time. (He’s only half his brother’s size but he packs a good punch, which I credit to his obsession with the Avengers cartoons.) As payback for ruining his story earlier, Z had tossed the hardcover book at M and hit him in the mouth. Blood poured from his split lip. I disciplined Z, stopped the bleeding and consoled M all from the confines of the front seat. Everyone calmed down, though hubby never even flinched. He was focused on getting get us to our destination as fast as possible.
Everyone wanted out of the car. Especially M, who shortly after the lip incident announced that he was about the puke. Not wanting to clean vomit out of the car for the umpteenth time in a year, we quickly pulled over. I jumped out along with M. A few deep breaths and a cold juice box later, we were back on the road. Luckily only five minutes to go.
Needless to say, parking was a relief… until we pulled Z out of his car seat. He’ll be four in November and has been potty trained since age two. As luck would have it, he chose that moment to pee his pants. The right leg of his jeans was soaked and I had no change of clothes. I had recently stopped bringing extra outfits with me because he never had any accidents. So he kept his wet pants on.
“The sun will dry it mommy,” he reassured me. We had to keep moving. We had made it this far and we weren’t turning back. My turn for deep breaths. I hoped the day would go more smoothly now that we were stretching our legs and enjoying some fresh air.
The village looked the same as I remembered. I pointed out some landmarks to the kids. They liked that there were pumpkins and scarecrows by each storefront. I began to relax. We stopped for some ice cream. Z took two bites before announcing he had to poop. He is usually constipated but for some reason he ALWAYS has to go when we are in a public place. It’s his thing. The café next door let us use their bathroom but only after we purchased some food and a beverage. Despite the urgency of the situation, the employee (obviously childless) had my husband wait in a long line to make his purchase. Six dollars and two macaroons later, my husband and Z were allowed into the stench-filled toilet. After lining the seat with an entire roll of toilet paper, Z announced that he didn’t have to go anymore. During this ordeal, I waited outdoors with M. We were walking along when he decided he had to poop too. We found a sign for a port –a-potty and ran straight for it. It was three blocks away. Panting as we finally reached the door, he also decided it was a false alarm.
I texted my husband my location. M was shouting he wanted to go home. I found a bench and plopped down defeated. As I waited for the other half of my family to rejoin us, I enviously watched the dozens of happy-go-lucky couples and smiling families as they took in the village sights and sounds. I was disappointed and upset that this did not turn out to be the leisurely afternoon I had imagined. When we are all reunited, we unanimously decided to head back home. We’d had enough. Total time spent in the village: forty-five minutes.
Maybe outings like this will get easier when the kids are a little older. Until then I prefer to handle the fighting, vomiting, whining and countless spontaneous poops within the comfort of my own home. Next time I want to escape, I’ll get a sitter.