Tuesday, August 2, 2011

i love you all the times (aka, road trip with a toddler????)

This year, one thing that suffered in our budget was the vacation allocation.  Going from two jobs to one will do that to a family.  We contemplated flying back to Iowa and Minnesota to see our families and use our U2 tickets (which we purchased when we lived in the area), but that was ridiculously expensive.  We contemplated taking the train, because after all then the misery of long-distance travel is contained to just one day.  But then we thought, A TODDLER ON A TRAIN??? and changed our minds.  Plus, that option was pretty expensive too.  So, it all came down to a great American road trip.  I did my best to tell myself that it would be fun and Burrito would enjoy seeing some things.  Just like The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Car Trip.  We even showed her how we would see something like "Mt. Grizzmore" on our trip. We were hopeful.

And to be honest, I must give Burrito credit.  She did reasonably well for all that we threw at her: Six states in two weeks, regular 8-12ish hour days in the car, not having her regular naps, having less sleep at night, having to sleep in multiple places, having the refuse the God-given urge to move.  We tried our best to work in plenty of stops (which of course made the days longer), chances to play on a playground, walk around somewhere or have a picnic lunch.  We tried to work in some sight-seeing too.  And Burrito did ok.  She had new books to read, new videos to watch, CDs to listen to (until Mommy broke the CD player).  She enjoyed some of the sights, particularly the Corn Palace (as she is very into all things princess and palace these days), Mt. Rushmore ("the faces!"), the train at Bedrock City, and above all, swimming in the hotel pools (which we made sure to include given the wisdom of an article I read, "to little kids, the pool is the vacation").

Perhaps toddler rebels would fit in well in lawless Deadwood?
But with all that said, Burrito definitely had her moments of toddler angst (whoever first said that toddler-hood is like adolescence totally nailed it on the head!).  No, she didn't spike her hair and paint her nails black, but she did whine.  A LOT.  I was exhausted each day from the strain of trying to keep my little munchkin happy, entertained, and taken care of.  Because an unhappy toddler in the car is no fun for ANYBODY.  The moment that was the pinnacle of toddler-hood was when we had stopped to pick up some fast food to eat for supper in the car one evening.  Burrito was enamored with the comic book that she got as a prize in her kid's meal.  She begged me to read it to her immediately.  I said, "No, Mommy is hungry.   Mommy needs to eat her supper and then Mommy will read it to you."  "No!" she said (she used this word a lot on vacation), "you're not hungry!"  She insisted on this several times!  On how I felt in a way that would benefit her.  Ah yes.  A toddler has occasional moments of empathy but they are still little cave-people mainly.  Driven by their feelings and seeing themselves at the center of the universe, they still need to grow and mature and be trained to care for others.

Moments like that one remind me of one of the central principles of parenting I strive to uphold.  It came up with Burrito once when I was trying to teach her about the Gospel and what God's grace meant.  I told her the word grace means, "I love you all the times."  I told her this because it's something I whisper to her a lot, something I say in her ear when a time-out has just been completed.  I wanted her to know that God's love is not conditional.  And I told her that He is even better at this than Mommy and Daddy.

I am tempted to only respond kindly when Burrito behaves, when she is a model child, when she does something I can show off to others.  But every time she throws a tantrum or misbehaves, every time she says "NO!", every time she smacks me in anger, I am reminded that I am called to show her unconditional love.  As a parent, my love should not be based on performance or on image or perfection.  It is based on the fact that she is my child and she is dear to me.

That's the crazy thing.  I get annoyed, I get frustrated, I get angry sometimes.  But I really do love her all the times.  She is dear to me for herself alone.

And sometimes I wonder, is that how Jesus feels about me?

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