This past weekend, Maya and I were seeking refuge from a cold day in Jasper by tucking into the Parks Canada Visitor’s Centre. Endless whining-turned-crying suggested her feet were cold. No wonder: she had kicked off her winter boots and had only her socks to break the cold wind. Beyond finding warmth for us, my mission there was to find a phone because my cell had just died two seconds after texting my husband: I need help. Will call a taxi if I don’t hear back in 10 minutes. Poor guy had no idea what I was referring to and, like any loving father, reverted to near-panic mode.
As my little girl vacillated between complete hysterics and gleefully tearing brochures off the wall, I fought back tears and scanned the room for a phone. I was done, finished, kaput. This was the third day of our trip to Jasper, and most of it was spent trying to keep the peace with my 20-month-old. Something was just ‘off’ and because she couldn’t explain it, and I couldn’t figure it out, it unravelled into a heaping mess of tears, frustration and crying of the “kicking and screaming” variety. I was afraid the next meltdown would happen at the Visitor’s Centre. I had walked 25 minutes there, but knew I wouldn’t get Maya back to the hotel in one piece. Either Paul would need to pick us up, or a taxi would do the job.
Maya ran around a corner and as I pursued her a woman stopped me in my tracks, took one look at me, and said, “Hey! I read your blog!” Bewildered, I reached my hand out to introduce myself and find out who she was. In the back of my mind I wondered who she expected to meet that day. The Meghan she encountered had circles under her eyes the size of dinner plates, unwashed hair tucked under a beanie, and stress oozing from every pore. I was underfed, over-caffeinated and struggling to keep it together. Was I even coherent? In the midst of my crisis, however, this woman, Tricia, had offered me a glimmer of joy in my day. (If you’re reading this, Tricia, please let me know!)
I won’t give you a play-by-play of the rest of our time away, but if “toddler vomit on car seat”, “unrolled toilet paper x one million”, and “uncooked pizza delivered to room just as baby goes for a nap” mean anything to you, I think you’ll get an accurate picture. It was fairly disastrous at every turn, and while now things are back to normal here in Banff, I can safely say I hit some of my lowest points of motherhood in Jasper.
I tell you this story for a few reasons. One is to stay true to my goal of being more honest with you about the ups and downs of parenthood. Another is to say that, despite all of our experience, travelling is particularly difficult while Maya is this age. She is fidgety, endlessly and wonderfully curious, unknowingly self-destructive, and attached to her parents. Paul was leading a photography workshop all weekend, and every time he had to leave it would set Maya off on a downward spiral until I could get enough sleep into her to reboot her system a bit.
The last reason I tell you this story is so that perhaps you can learn something from what I just went through. I’m not kicking myself for the mistakes I made, but I have been reflecting on what I could have done differently. This will sound like a lot of “should have,” “could have,” or “would have”, but I may as well share these lessons so that you can benefit. I will certainly be applying them the next time we need to travel with Maya.
I should have:
…removed Maya from the environment that was triggering the reaction. For some reason, she went goofy in the hotel room, and that eventually turned to out-of-control. When things got hysterical, I should have tried to change the scene for her and help her forget about what was bothering her.
…brought a warmer system for walking outdoors. I thought I had it covered, but I should have brought the bunting bag; it is a far easier system than layering clothing. I grew frustrated picking up mitts, hats and boots from the pavement as Maya took them off and threw them down.
…considered more factors, such as teething or a sore tummy. At times I was reacting to Maya as if she was simply ‘acting up’. Yes, part of it was an overreaction on her part – call it the emotional confusion of a toddler. But I could have kept my emotions more in check if I had also attributed her behaviour to something symptomatic.
…reconsidered the trip. This trip was not essential for me to go on, and as appealing as it was to get out of Banff for a few days, my gut was telling me it would be too much for us. It’s a matter of weighing the challenges of travelling with Maya right now with the ‘idealized’ version of the trip in my head.
So, there you go. A trip gone wrong – completely wrong. But tonight I’m thinking of some of my nice moments, like watching cartoons with Maya in bed in the morning; playing in the park and climbing into a miniature train; watching her win over people at the tables next to us at the restaurant; and, finally, watching her sleep very soundly at the end of our hard days. Compared to the baby we used to travel with, who struggled to get through the night, having a toddler who slept through all three nights was a big win. At least there’s that.
For more photos from this trip, check out my Instagram feed.