Ugh. It’s a general rule of thumb that you shouldn’t take a tired baby anywhere to do anything. There’s a reason why our ‘nightlife’ consists of Netflix and Warcraft— not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we’re just usually tethered to the baby monitor’s 100yd range. But we thought that, since the baby has surprised us by being upbeat and vivacious after normal bedtimes in the past, last night would be another encore.
/cue game show “wrong answer” buzzer
Welcome to the first blog post in which I seriously kick myself in the ass.
It’s just one time, I told myself. It’s not like it’s a regular occurrence, I reassured myself.
For us in the United States, Fourth of July is a great excuse to get out, enjoy some fresh air, socialize and blow things up. I was more intent on the first three things, especially since my brother-in-law was home from his current assignment with the Navy. He’s a great, fun guy to be around– not to mention he’s also our daughter’s godfather– and I know my husband just lights up being around his brother, doing “guy things” and being “brotherly.” There was no way I could pass up an opportunity like that.
After we’d eaten dinner, the baby was up and ready to practice walking again. She had a lot of energy, even though post-dinnertime is usually when we’re prepping for bed and winding down. My husband and I took this for a good sign.
There isn’t much in the way of loud noises in our day-to-day lives. But we also knew we couldn’t shield her from experiencing things like fireworks and the sort for long. The earlier she knows about such things, the better, right? It’s an acclimation thing. She handles thunderstorms incredibly well, aside from the confusion of having the sky be nearly night-dark during the day. We’ve had thunder shake the house and make an insane clamor at random intervals. Fireworks just had bigger and louder noises.
It’ll all be okay, I told myself as I repeated the mantra from my husband.
When we got to the cul-de-sac where my brother-in-law and his family live, we were surprised to see a multitude of cars parked to the sides. There were people all over their driveway with food and drinks; lawn chairs and folding chairs were set up. Kids ran about all over the place in play. In short, there were a lot of people. And I hardly knew any of them. I kept my urge to panic and hide at a minimum, if not for anything but to keep from embarrassing my husband and letting the baby pick up on it.
Usually, when I’m feeling uneasy or nervous, I go into RP mode. How terribly nerdy of you, Toriah, you may say. Well, I’m usually the first to admit that I have serious self-esteem issues and admitting the problem is the first stage. I’m still at that first stage but it’s all about baby steps, alright? (Pun intended, by the way.) Regardless, I gird myself with the knowledge that in a faraway– albeit fictional– land, I am a cunning and skilled hunter with a keen eye and impressive mail armor. I am powerful, a force to be reckoned with!
Yet in my shorts, tank top and linen shirt, looking like some sorry knockoff of the modern suburban mom trying too hard to fit in, I felt anything but epic. I was just a level one noob wandering aimlessly around Durotar, trying my best to not get eaten alive. No legendary bow, no ferocious pet… Not even so much as a rock with which to arm myself. Just a baby, a couple dozen cookies and my genuine, but nervous, “I’d really like to say hi and chat because I really do have a plethora of interesting topics to converse about and you may actually like me if you got to know me but you really don’t know me and I’m pretty sure you’d rather spend your time with your actual friends” smile. Usually, the baby is enough to draw people in and start a conversation but it could be the fact that they’re just too busy to stop and say, “Hi! I’m so-and-so. What an adorable baby…”
I encouraged my husband to go and socialize so at least one of us could have human contact. He stuck by my side with the baby, claiming the only advantage he had over me was the fact that his face had been seen maybe one or two times more than mine. He didn’t really know them either, except to just make small talk. And my husband really doesn’t do “small talk.”
All that aside, the multitude of people made the situation a recipe for overstimulation. We went out back where it was quieter and the baby seemed happy. We changed her diaper and she seemed happier. As the sun finished setting, we settled on some patio furniture in the back of the crowd to wait for the fireworks to start. The baby was still happy and alert, even clapping her hands and playing little games with us.
It was finally dusk. The fireworks were about to start. I looked at my watch and noted it was just about the time that the baby would usually fall asleep.
And that was when the baby reached up to be held and promptly put her head down on my husband’s shoulder. Uh oh.
The baby watched the first firework with interest. We acted with enthusiasm so she would know it was a good thing, even if it’s a little startling at first. The next few went off alright as well. She’d clap her hands or grab our hands to clap them together. Yay! Maybe we were right after all, we thought!
As the baby reached for me, I knew it meant she was really tired or in need of some serious comfort. Typically, when we’re out in public and she gets tired, she clings to Daddy. He has a little more cushioning on the shoulders and is infinitely more comfortable than my bony frame. He’s like a moving, breathing bed for baby. She put her head down on my shoulder and tucked her arms in– her classic “I’m ready to pass out now” position. I held her gently and rocked us to n’ fro. The next firecracker could only be described as the equivalent to a flash-bang grenade: lots of noise and not a lot of visual… Not that the latter mattered because two ladies decided to stand in front of us, blocking our view. (How rude! may I add.)
Every time the firecracker popped, I felt my daughter’s body jump and flinch. It popped at least twelve times. In rapid succession. She may as well have had a seizure or heart attack.
I didn’t wait for her to begin wailing in terror and distress to feel bad. I finally drew the line and pressed to go home. I knew my husband wouldn’t be happy about it since we didn’t get to see any fireworks this year; but he didn’t feel her body jerk about like she’d been shot twelve times. If her cry had just been a matter of being scared, I could have handled that. But her cry conveyed hurt and pain. That was the cry of someone trying to feel safe and get comfortable because she’s tired and all she wants is sleep. It seemed to scream, “How could you do this to me, Mom?” She sounded betrayed and I couldn’t deny it nor could I blame her. For the first time in a long while, I thought, “Did I permanently traumatize my kid?”
As I tried to calm my daughter’s hysterical tears, I berated myself. It’s one thing to take my daughter out past her bedtime. It’s another thing to take her out and subject her to such an environment with potentially terrifying effects. On top of all that, I personally accomplished nothing: my daughter didn’t make any new friends, nor did I; I hardly saw my brother- or sister-in-law, or any of their kids. I can handle embarrassing mistakes, like raid wipes– it’s easy to laugh those off in the right environment. But this sort of mistake cuts deep into me. Parenting is full of trial-and-error and this is certainly an error I will not make again.
Quest failed. I quickly hit the “Abandon” button and high-tailed it out of there.
There is a happy ending to all of this, however. After ten minutes in the car (while I was still stewing in my own self-hatred), the baby began to babble happily. We swiftly swept her upstairs and into bed where she cuddled with her blanket and bunny, blissfully sleeping away the tumultuous night.
And now, she’s up bright and early again, eager to practice more walking. We get to start the horribly stereotypical girly pastime of shoe shopping later today. With any luck, she’ll be like me and disdain such things in the future, doing it out of necessity alone.