ARE WE THERE YET? OUR FIRST TRIP TO NJ POST CHILD.
6:00 pm arrives and it looks as though Sparks is out for the night. We allowed him an hour to slip into his deep slumber (if there is such a thing) before we put him in his crying machine, I mean car seat. At 7:00 we were on our way. Driving through the cold dark night with my wife and son on our way to see my family, I was so excited. Alix and I were chatting and singing and hoping that this pace would last. He stirred a few times and Alix moved to the back seat next to Sparks so that when he did stir she could comfort him back to his slumber. 8:30, his stirring turns into an all out “I AM AWAKE AND I DO NOT WANT TO BE IN THIS FUCKING SEAT ANYMORE” sort of yell. And now, I see why moms kick ass. Alix begins to do the “Boob Dangle”, breastfeeding a child without compromising his safety and not losing any travel time. Brilliant, and it worked. He fell back asleep; for about six minutes and then all hell broke lose. We had to stop. I was a moment away from calling my family to report that we could not make the trip. It was so hard to watch and listen to him cry in his car seat. Huge crocodile tears were running down his face, sweat was running down his neck and there was nothing we could do to make it stop. Car seats should be made of memory foam, we land people on the moon, can’t we design a more comfortable contraption to keep our children safe in the car. We arrived at the rest stop at about ten o;clock and entered The Brightest Building in the World in an attempt to get Sparks to fall back asleep. I think the electricians were told to use as many fluorescent lights as possible so that rest stops can be visible from space. By this point, I can confidently say that making a journey like this truly tests the communication and tolerance skills of couples. Alix walked him around, I walking him around, Alix took another turn and then I resorted to crouching behind the closed down Starbucks counter in order to shield his eyes from the brightest lights in the world. The only other people in the building were a couple of twenty somethings that were clearly satisfying their munchies and a creepy cleaning man. In this moment, as new parents we realized that rest stops are not meant as a place to visit so that you can lull your child back to his slumber. Eventually the creepy cleaning guy kicked me out of the slightly dim lit Starbucks. And eventually Sparks fell back asleep. Alix waited near the dollar arcade games that we learned are motion sensitive so that as you approach them all sorts of bells, whistles and lights erupt and try to lure you in and wake up sleeping infants. I went to warm up the car. After about an hour or so at the brightest rest stop in the world, we were on our way again.
This time we were not so relaxed and excited, we were hesitant. “Please don’t wake up, Please don’t wake up,” became our mantra but we dare not say it aloud for fear of invoking some sort of jinx. The brightest rest stop in the world began to fade in the rear view and then….a slow whimper that lasted for about one second and then Sparks may have actually broken the sound barrier, his whimper was now a ruckus. Alix pulled out all of the fantastic mom tricks, to no avail. For the second time in a matter of hours we diverted and pulled into a park and ride hoping that the building would be open. Not much is open in Maine after twilight and this was no exception. I circled the parking lot seeking out a dark corner so that we could take Sparks out of his seat. We could not take him out of the car because it was freezing. So there we were at the park and ride at 11:15. By the light of a bright street light, I could see Sparks was not going to settle down anytime soon, “this here, is what you call conundrum,” is the phrase that echoed in my brain. Less than three hours into our pilgrimage and Sparks was not happy with his travel plans and Alix and I were speaking to each other in short, quick sentences, punctuated with an exclamation point often with a few swear words thrown in. Sparks was crying, Alix was crying because Sparks was crying, I was crying because Sparks and Alix were crying and we had not even made it out of Maine! We were close to a friends house in Portsmouth and at 11:30 I made the call. My good friend answered the phone and in his sleepy, cranky voice answered, “I am asleep. This better be fucking important.” He had no idea. “It is important. We are twenty minutes away and we need to get out of this car.” We arrived at his house close to midnight and were greeted with open arms, a cozy fire, a beer and a glass of whine. Damn I love my friends. Sparks fell asleep as we pulled onto his street. Plan B was in effect. Our plan was to sleep for an hour or two and then travel again while Sparks was sleeping.
To be continued…
THE MAINE MARTINS BITE THE BIG APPLE (part 2)
And so we are back on the road at 3 a.m. Our cozy rest in front of the fireplace was a very welcomed relief from the car. Our trip was so far, not as we had planned. My vision of driving through the night and arriving for breakfast was quickly a memory. The remainder of the trip was relatively uneventful. Sparks slept for most of the ride, he woke up as we were going through New York. We pulled over, he ate and for the rest of the ride he was content. I did feel like a taxi driver of sorts, Alix spent the rest of the ride in the back with Sparks. We arrived in New Jersey at 10:00 in the morning, in time for coffee, breakfast and family. Sparks did meet all of his cousins and for days he was passed from person to person and he was all smiles. We went to our annual Christmas Eve celebration and he met more relatives and sat on Santa’s lap. Thankfully he was too young to notice that Santa was a skinny guy with long hair peaking out beneath his red hat. He was also too young to notice that Santa was handing out very specific gits, Santa gave out booze and beer as gifts! Christmas morning was a delight, spent with my family. This is why, we made the pilgrimage. As Alix and I watched our son have his first Christmas with his grandparents, great grandmother, his great Uncle and his cousin we were quite proud of our accomplishment as new parents. In the end, we kicked that road trips ass. It landed the first punch but eventually we got our groove – we rocked.
|Sparks and his Great Grandmother.|
More cousins and relatives arrived for our Christmas night jam session, poker game and over-eating. The day after Christmas we played our annual Martin Family Football game and for the first time in years; there were no injuries. What starts as a friendly game, quickly turns fierce; full on tackle, no pads, no warm up, no stretching and an older brother that does not like to lose and tackles very hard. When I leap to catch a pass, I brace myself for the impact that my older brother is about to impart on his youngest brother. Thank goodness for the Christmas Eve beer gifts, it seemed to lessen the soreness.
In years past it has been a tradition of ours to visit New York City. What an awesome adventure to bring Sparks to NYC. We would wander around SOHO, visit galleries and have a grand time in the Big Apple. This year we were joined on our adventure by my mother, my brother and his family. Alix and I packed our fashionable diaper bag and made sure we had everything we would need. Again I ask, how can one small being need so much stuff? This time we managed to put everything in one bag. When it was all said and done ten of us boarded the train bound for a day in NYC. On the fifteen minute ride to the train station Sparks fell asleep in his car seat, this is a rare occasion but it was perfect, he would be sleeping for the train ride. We boarded the NJ Transit, Alix found a seat right next to a sort of large man. No sooner had Alix taken her seat when Sparks woke up. No movement, no sleeping. She attempted to nurse him but he is an easily distracted boy and the man next to her did not exactly exude the “I am cool with breast feeding in public” vibe. Alix jostled (a term that we use often in our house) him and that worked for a bit. Alix suggested that we give him the bottle that I packed. I rummaged through the bag and pulled out the bottle, Alix looked perplexed. I am new to the bottle thing, yes, I packed the bottle and the rubber nipple but I did not pack the screw on top. This meant the bottle was absolutely useless. Chalk that one up to parenting 101. I suggested we just give him the pacifier, Alix reached in her pocket and we soon realized that we left his pacifier in the car seat. This trip was not shaping up the way we planned. Sound familiar? We arrived at Penn Station and split up, by brother and crew were heading up-town and we would venture downtown so that we could stand in front of Picasso’s, Basquaits and Dali’s with our new son. To SOHO we would walk!
Have you ever walked from Penn Station to SOHO- it is a bit of a hike. It was a tad bit on the breezy side but we are from Maine, no problem, just bundle up the boy and put him in the Moby close to his Mom’s heart. As we walked, we talked about how awesome it is that at three months old Sparks was hearing, smelling and experiencing the sights and sounds of NYC. We live in Maine, we don’t often hear languages other than English, in a two block walk he heard so many different languages being spoken. He started to get a bit fussy so we sought comfort in an Espresso Bar so that Alix could feed him and we could let him move around a bit. Thankfully the shop was empty-because as we soon discovered, it was terrible. “The coffee wasn’t coffee at all, just water dressed in brown”, as Ani D so nicely phrased it. Sparks did experience his first public changing and it was a respite from the cold. Alix tried breast feeding him again but apparently the beautiful commotion of the city was too interesting for Sparks. And as I mentioned earlier, his bottle was useless.
|Sparks @ the Espresso Bar.|
|Feeding @ the Grey Dog.|
Onward we went. It slowly started to get colder and Sparks slowly started to get louder. And then it happened, he began to wail his “I am hungry, I am cold, we have been walking forever, get me the hell out of here” yell. A few folks looked at us with a slight bit of disgust, others looked at us with the “I have been there before” look and some folks just smiled knowing that we were clearly new parents. We decided to abandon the idea of standing in a quiet gallery, calmly viewing the art that graced so many galleries in NYC. We entered the “OH Shit,lets figure out something quick mode.” We decided that food was probably at the top of Sparks suggestion list. Many people travel to the city to visit historic landmarks and shop. Our first stop was a sub-par espresso bar and our first purchase in the Big Apple would be a new bottle. Thankfully there is a Duane Reed on every corner. Instead of standing in front of beautiful works of art, we were standing in front of the “Baby needs” isle. At this moment it occurred to us that our life was different and although we cherish our new life- it is a change. The last time we were in NYC we strolled around Prince Street, found a cozy Cuban place to eat and visited a handful of bars sampling Martinis and now we are shopping for pacifiers and BPA free bottles. Back out onto the street in search of a place to feed our little man. It was hard to find a place that wasn’t too swanky, too crowded, too nasty, too expensive or too cheap. We were waiting for the Goldilocks moment-“just right”. We walked into a pub called the Grey Dog, the music was blaring so loud that nobody noticed that a couple of new parents and a screaming infant had entered. PERFECT- “just right”. Alix got the boy settled and I went to the counter on a mission. I ordered a glass of wine and a beer and asked them to run our new bottle under the Espresso Machine and fill it up. I returned to the table with our beverages and a blazing hot bottle full of water; so hot it was hard to hold. I started shaking it back and forth so that the bottle and nipple would be sanitized before feeding. My assumption was that in order for anything to express out of a bottle there had to be a squeezing or sucking force. NOT TRUE. Apparently shaking was enough and before I knew it, a look of panic came across Alix’s face when she realized that I was spraying the man sitting next to us. A direct hit to his face and his I-pad. The tables were close, he was arms length away, we are certain that for a moment this man believed that he was being sprayed in the face with breast milk. He looked relieved to learn that it was only hot water, we were relieved that he was a father. As he looked at us, our son and the pint glass of hot water with a bottle floating in it, he was gracious about the ordeal. Clearly, this was in fact, our first rodeo. Spark’s settled down, the wine and beer made it cozy and we had a terrific evening snack.We regained our composure and realized that it was time to start heading back uptown. On our journey uptown the wind picked up and the sun started to go down and Sparks was asleep. We decided that the subway would be our best option. We walked through the turn-styles just in time to hop on. Alix found a seat and as soon as she sat down, guess who woke up? She stood up, propped a leg on the seat and started to jostle our beautiful boy back to his slumber. The men closest to us were not the type you would expect to see making baby faces, but they were. It was the little old lady sitting next to Alix that surprised us. Covered in a fur coat, snacking on pretzels that were hidden in her expensive hand bag, she was wearing those eye glasses that just looked pretentious. “Really?” she said peering down her nose at Alix. “You have your dirty foot on the seat and then people have to sit where your foot was” she sneered. “Better than a screaming infant in your ear, isn’t it?” we asked her. Alix is not a violent person but it felt as if she may whack this cranky bitch in the face, the intimidating men were making faces at her as well. She never looked up. This experience made us realize that infants either bring out the best in people or amplify the negative attitudes of the unfortunate few. Our stop came up quickly.
|Alix may get busted @ Penn Station.|
It was in the subway station that we had the most fun. There was a great Chilean band playing, the music was great. We had to stop, Alix had to dance. People’s faces lit up when they saw Alix and Sparks dancing to the beats. We stayed there for a while. Our train was leaving at 5:40 and it was 5:33, we ran to the train, hopped on the first open door and by some small miracle, we saw my brother waving his arms at us. We never made it to one gallery but the trip was a great experience. Our little family took the train to New York City, walked 30 blocks in the cold to have a snack,buy a bottle and go back home.
One week ago today I watched and held my wife as she pushed with all of her might to bring our son into our home. One week ago today I heard my son’s first cry. One week ago today I held my son for the first time. One week ago today I fell in love for the second time in five years. One week ago today I realized what it means to feel a sense of connection that can only be felt between parent and child. One week ago today I became a better man and that will make me a better teacher. One week ago today an eight pound being changed my life.
I have seen how hard it can be for parents to leave their children on the first day of school, especially if there are tears. I have hugged crying children assuring them that their parents will be back at the end of the day. They cry huge tears simply because they don’t want to leave their parents. Soon, everyone always calms down but for that moment in their life, all they want is to be with their mom or dad. I always feel for the parents that leave their children with me as they go to work and some leave with tears. Both parent and child know that everything will be alright but I don’t think that makes saying goodbye easier, even if its just for a school day. And now I understand.
I have always been honored and thankful that parents trust me with their children. Above all else I have always tried to make sure that children feel safe, nurtured and comfortable while in my classroom. While interacting with children I always try to imagine that their mom or dad is behind me, listening to what I am saying making sure I am genuine, honest ,fair, and heartfelt. If someone falls down, gets a splinter or loses a tooth it is important to take the time to comfort and sooth them. Thunderstorms are never easy in kindergarten. Children need to know that they are safe, loved and free from judgement before they can truly begin to learn.
So here is my Thank You to all of the parents that have had faith and trust in me to take care of their children. Thank You for trusting me to be a good man as well as a good educator. And now I join you in that trust, this past weekend I became a dad. I now understand why saying goodbye in the morning is hard. I now understand the bond that only parent and child share. The other day I left my wife and son at home for the first time and all I could think about was how I wish were back home with them. I want nothing more than for him to be safe and joyful and I imagine that is how all parents feel when they trust another person with their children. For years I was and am the person that parents trust and I never take that lightly. Now, I have a new understanding, I see my profession with new eyes and I have no doubt that becoming a dad will make me a better educator and a better man.