When Little A and I started this journey, I claimed it was in part because I wanted to prove people who said I was crazy for hitting the road for two weeks with just a toddler and no one else was crazy. I wanted to know that I could take just about anything as a parent and preserve my sanity.
Sadly, on day two of the trip, I met my nemesis, the enemy of my sanity. Evil, thy name is "the traffic around the city of Chicago when one is trying to get through or around the city with a toddler in the car." It's a long name. For simplicity, we'll just say "evil."
I should have known it was going to be a bad day when we went to the Madison Children's Museum (lovely and creative and spacious and stimulating) and A used the opportunity to shove a few boys. The first boy tried to touch a baby doll that A was playing with, but I was holding. This victim got a swift hand planted on the chest which sent him to the floor. The other boy leaned in for a kiss and got shoved backwards.
I feel a little ambivalent about A's newfound pushing tendencies. On the one hand, I don't want her to go around shoving people out of the blue. And I want her to be empathetic (which she was when she saw how sad the boys were -- she said sorry and gave them each a friendly pat). But I also want her to feel like she doesn't have to kiss another kid if she doesn't want to. I always feel a little awkward when I say something like, "he just wanted to give you a little kiss." I know that when she's a teenager, I'll be singing a very different tune. It will go something like this: "If someone wants to kiss you and you don't want to say 'No.' If the person doesn't listen, then punch them in the face and kick them where it counts."
But I digress. I was on the topic of evil.
I was hoping that A would sleep from Madison through Chicago. I've made this drive between the east coast and the upper Midwest many times and I am no stranger to the trials of getting around Chicago. Everything seemed to time out well. For the beginning of the ride, we listened to some nursery rhymes until she fell asleep. She slept most of the time.
We were just outside of Chicago when she woke up and asked for the "potty." This was OK too. We stopped for gas and coffee and milk (when facing Evil one must be well fueled and nourished) and to stretch our legs (physical preparedness is key as well).
We ventured in, joining the masses of the righteous on four wheels.
The thing about Evil is that it is unpredictable, ever present, and sneaky.
Little A started in just as we were in the thick of things, cars on every side, no spot to stop (not that I would dare pull over in the middle of Evil anyway).
"Potty?" she asked, hopefully
We had just stopped. I knew it was a ploy. Evil had entered my car and was taking control of my daughter.
"Potty?" she said, still sweet and hopeful.
"Potty? Potty." She grew demanding.
"Potty. POTTY!" She screamed and wailed. I fully expected to see her head spinning around and green vomit spewing out of her mouth.
"Just a little longer," I cooed.
"Evil, you will not win," I thought.
I knew she didn't need to go- we'd just stopped. It was a ploy Evil was using to lure me in to stopping.
"How about some music?" I asked cheerily, as if this was the holy water with which we would defend ourselves against this traffic, the waiting, the stop and go, the wailing.
Almost as soon as I turned on the CD, I knew this was a mistake. It was as if Evil itself had reached through the window and forced me to do it.
The nursery rhymes started. They quieted A for a moment.
I hummed along quietly and then, when I felt A growing restless, I became more enthusiastic. I tried one handed motions, dramatic head bobbing, cheery voices. It worked intermittently.
The nursery rhyme CD we checked out from the library is short. It has 23 tracks about a minute each. You do the math. This means we can listen to the whole thing about 1,278,417 times while sitting in Chicago traffic. And we did.
When A and I listen to music, we often just listen to what I want to hear and she's fine with that because she is a child and music is music and she does not realize that some of it was made and recorded for her age demographic. But I also realize that kids music and nursery rhymes can be entertaining for her too. They are short and becoming more familiar to her. They review vocabulary she already has (sheep, star, bird) and topic that she will one day have to know something about (animal husbandry, candle-stick jumping, the temperament of royalty, and, doe future weddings, that songs sometimes have gestures and movements associated with them). She can focus through an entire one minute song. Chopin's étude? Not so much.
But here's the thing about this CD: some tracks have the electronic sound and needlessly complicated arrangement of bad Asian karaoke, some tracks are clearly done by a musical theater major in the tradition of Rachel Barry, and still others, like Humpty Dumpty, seem to be sung by Kenny Loggins (I actually checked the liner notes and the lack of information leads me to believe that it is, indeed, Kenny Loggins).
Evil was winning. I was losing my sanity.
Needless to say, we survived our trip through the gates of hell that day. But on the return trip, I will search for a quoted, gentler route.
Or else bring better holy water.