Our Cape Cod vacation 2010 has come and gone with all its lovely weather, salted ocean breezes, not one single smashed window, and a safe trip home.
Everything in between was chaos, sunburn, exhaustion, two major Jonah meltdowns, the ocean, swim pool, hot dog stands, and as much quiet time as we could get away with.
Meltdown #1 took place before we were even halfway there, at a rest stop, eating McD’s among the tables full of weary, road-worn travelers. We could tell Jonah was getting agitated and we could almost visibly see the gears in his head trying to keep it together. Andy said to me, “you realize he’s about to have a freak-out and –” before he could utter another word Jonah launched himself at Andy, ripping his glasses off and throwing them skidding across the floor, one lens popping out completely. Then the scratching, the screaming, the kicking. Andy held him and wrestled him, wailing and crying, outside as quickly as possible while I avoided the gaze of the staring masses and hunted down scattered twisted pieces of my husband’s eye-wear.
Not an auspicious beginning.
We only stay at the Cape for three nights because it is all we can stand. I spent most of the vacation fantasizing of Maria Von Trapp entering stage-left, singing of schnitzel with noodles, eager to care for my cherub so I can crouch on the beach and create pictures from shells, stones, and seaweed – all while gulping coffee, lullaby-ed by the waves, smiling into the sunshine. I celebrated a birthday while I was there, making a wish to help transform my deliciously selfish fantasy into reality, but to no avail. How do you solve a problem like (the distressing lack of) Maria?
You play pass the Jonah, that’s how. So one morning I let Andy sleep in while I made breakfast and took Jonah down to walk the jetty — one of his favorite beach activities – ignoring the judgmental senior citizen couples screaming at me with their stares: how can you let that poor little boy run barefoot on those treacherous rocks?
- and the next day Andy took Jonah for an early-morning trip to the playground so I could make some pictures in the sand after all.
But in between the brief periods of sun-lemon lit beach silence or a cushion-y extra hour’s sleep, Jonah challenged every inch of our patience. He stomped around the room. He shouted poopy in the potty! out the screen door overlooking the pool. He begged repeatedly for wants: cookie? cookie? cookie? cookie? cookie? cookie? He was nearly always too loud. He repeatedly refused undesired activities: no brush teeth?! no brush teeth?! no brush teeth?! no brush teeth?! no brush teeth?! no brush teeth?! He made endless demands. Entreaties. Complaints. Random booming declarations. He asked for cheeseburger and ate one bite. He asked for park and then declared all done after 5 minutes. He requested swim pool and lasted another 5 minutes before begging for ocean.
But Jonah adores the ocean – and it very nearly made all the trouble worth it.
Like childbirth labor, by August next year the meltdowns, yelling, endless repeated phrases, rapidly vacillating requests (ocean? pool? hot dog? car ride?) and screechy whining will have faded into a blurry hypnogogic memory of vague pain. We’ll embrace optimism – it’ll be better this year – and try again.
We did have gorgeous weather. 80-85 degrees every day with ocean breezes, blue sky, and a lame hurricane that limped in, wheezing its 30mph winds, half a day after we’d left for home.
I admit I’d have loved to walk leisurely with Andy down the beach or, dare I dream, go out to an actual sit-down dinner while someone watched Jonah. But all in all I have to say we did well. Jonah swam in the pool, in the hot-tub, in the ocean, in the other pool, in the bath. He leaped across the jetties like a deer, and he never once tried to scope out strangers’ coolers or throw sand at hapless unsteady infants.
He did, however, swat. He even says the word “swat” while he is swatting, every time, as if we’re too obtuse to comprehend his actions unless he verbalizes them as well. This is something new. All vacation long when he didn’t want to do something (or didn’t get to do what he wanted), he both vocalized and pantomimed swat. We said “no swat” angrily and gave him the evil eye, at which point he switched into contrite-boy-mode, asking “huck? huck?” “okay? okay?” ad infinitum. “No, it’s not okay,” we told him, so he reverted to “swat,” again cocking his hand for a hit at whomever he was nearest. This would necessitate quiet time, leading to more fun frustration and further swatting.
“Second verse? Same as the first!”
~ Herman’s Hermits
On the ride home the swat-and-huck routine became infuriatingly surreal. swat and hug and hug and swat, the entire way. Since we were in the front of the car and he in the back, we couldn’t really hug him; a touch on his knee with an outstretched, contorted arm had to suffice. When he began to weep and panic, Andy and I would alternate who “hugged” him, all the while searching for distractions to pass the time without incident. We fiddled with the radio, shoveled goldfish crackers and potato chips into our child, and prayed he wouldn’t break anyone’s glasses at the next rest stop. We wished the miles away and behind us, driving with a time bomb in the backseat likely to explode at any moment if we didn’t high-tail it home – and fast.
It was as if, driving home, we expected to find someone waiting for us (Maria Von Trapp again?), ready to babysit so we could finally sleep, rest, and have a vacation from our vacation. Not so. But we made it through, assuredly deserving of matching cheesy t-shirts: We Survived the 2010 Cape Cod Swat Team!!!
Bring it on, September. We’re ready.
Jonah returns to school Wednesday, and there is no pretense of apathy about it; if you listen closely, you might even hear the angels in heaven chorusing good tidings of comfort and joy.
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