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Kindness goes a long way

Trying to load the kids into the car this afternoon; Arik, as usual, is being a right little shit about it. I had opened his door and very carefully rested it against the mirror of the car beside us (this was actually a conscious decision, as it’ll do significantly less damage that way if my little punk manages to get a leg free enough to kick the door…) As I’m struggling with him, a guy comes walking up and is clearly the owner of the car beside us.

I say to him (in Norwegian), rather cheerily despite the on-going battle with my son, “Oh, sorry, you’re probably looking to get into your car, aren’t you? One sec!”

He snarks back at me, “I really don’t appreciate you doing that to my car!”

I was confused for a moment and then realised he was referring to my car door resting against the back of his mirror. To be fair, if I were in his shoes, I’d probably have been irritated, too. But I was doing the best I could with a kicking, writhing, (screaming-at-the-top-of-his-lungs) toddler.

I sighed and muttered that I was being very careful, moved the door out a bit (praying that Arik wouldn’t manage a successful kick) and then continued loading the tyrant. I finally get Arik in (and the turd has the audacity to give me an impish grin, as if we’ve been buds this whole time) and move to get Linnea in the car next.

The guy starts walking back towards me and I turn warily, expecting I’m about to get reamed out.

“Sorry I was rude to you. I can see you’re doing the best you can and you didn’t do anything to my car.”

Huh? I looked up at him, surprised, and then started to stammer out an explanation as to why any part of my vehicle was touching any part of his vehicle…

“It’s ok. I shouldn’t have gotten mad at you.”

I thanked him and told him I really appreciated him saying that and then went back to loading my other munchkin, trying not to cry. Go figure, I didn’t cry when he’s being unpleasant and then he takes pity on the struggling mom and I’m suddenly not only struggling with monkey kids, I’m struggling with potential water works, too.

I did appreciate it though. It was kind of him to cut me some slack and show some empathy. Many of us – myself included – are quick to judge and perhaps not so quick to admit when we overreact. I didn’t damage his vehicle, but I can understand why he wasn’t pleased to see my car door bumped up against his. And who knows what else had happened in his day up to that point? He could easily have gotten into his car and driven away without saying another word to me. Maybe he would’ve felt a bit regretful at snapping at me, but that wouldn’t have helped me much. Or my kids, who likely would’ve had to deal with a snippy mother for the rest of the evening.

Kindness goes a long way.

She makes me better

I have not been blessed with the virtue of patience; it’s never been a strong suit of mine. And while I’m much more patient with my kids than I am about most anything else, I still tend to blow a gasket far more often than I’m ok with. Especially when I’m tired. And these days, I feel like I’m most always tired.

The one who bears the brunt of this is my daughter. That amazing little person who’s just being a normal kid, a normal (actually, to be honest, much better than normal) three-year-old. I’m not proud of it and I regularly tell myself that, “Enough is enough, I’m going to be better about this.” And then I’m not.

Editing our annual family photo album today, I came across pictures of Linnea helping her Pappa and Uncle change the tires on our car. And I wonder, how did I get so lucky? She’s such an amazing kid. And once more, I wish I was better. I wish I was more patient. I wish her constant barrage of “Why?” didn’t drive me up the fucking wall. Because she’s a kid. She’s supposed to ask all these maddening questions, it’s how she learns about the world. Still drives me nuts.

When I start to feel guilty about these sorts of things, it’s easy to fall into the trap of tallying up all the things I’ve done wrong; the things I could do better. And that list is long. But then I look at those pictures again. I look at that happy face – that truly HAPPY kid. And I know we’re doing ok. I know I’m doing ok. Yeah, I screw up on the regular, but I’m raising a couple of awesome little people and I’m not doing half bad (if I do say so myself). And here’s the best part: they make me a better person. Those little people. They drive me crazy and, yeah, I lose my shit far more often than I’d like. But more often than not, I reel myself in. Or, at the very least, I apologise. And my kids see a human. And when my girl listens seriously as I explain that Mum messed up and “I’m sorry,” and then tells me “S’ok, Mamma!” and gives me a hug, a part of me I didn’t even know was broken heals a bit more.


If the trailer’s a rockin’…

…don’t come a knockin’

No, seriously. Don’t knock. We’re probably rocking the baby to sleep and if you wake him, well, to quote Russell Peters’ dad, “Somebody gonna get a hurt reeeeeal bad!”

Combining my maternity leave with the generous Norwegian vacation time, we had planned on taking a long holiday in Canada this summer. We made the plans, signed Linnea out of barnehage (preschool) for several weeks and started dreaming about dumping the kids off with my parents for a couple of night and spending our five year wedding anniversary holed up at a winery. And then life happened.

Given certain family circumstances, a long trip to the other side of the world just wasn’t in the cards for us this summer, particularly not for Arne-Morten. So we resigned ourselves to the idea of a staycation. Three weeks straight at home with the kids. Day in and day out. In the Norwegian summer (ie, rain. Lots of rain.) Oh joy.

While hanging out at home with my mom and my fussy baby one afternoon, I got a message from my husband: “I bought this.” This being a camper with an add-on tent (the “we can’t afford a cabin, so here’s the next best thing” option for would-be cabin owners) permanently stationed at a campground a couple hours south of us. Oh. Umm… hmm… ok. So it seems my husband’s going through an early midlife crisis. Good to know. Kinda wish he would’ve talked to me before acting on it, but alrighty, let’s roll with this. I don’t recall exactly how I responded, but it was tentatively positive. Turns out, however, that he was just kidding. Phew! We had a good laugh about it and then moved on. Sort of.

The more I looked at the ad, the more I liked the idea of a trailer by the sea.

Long story short, we joked about it a bit more and then came to the realisation that we were both interested in such a vacation home. Initially, we thought that it might be something for “next year” or “when the kids are a bit older” (seriously, who goes camping – or even glamping, let’s be real here – with a baby?!?! Crazy people, that’s who.) But the more we joked about it, the more we searched Finn (Norway’s version of Craigslist, but better) for “our” vacation home. And soon, it was very real. A week or two later, we were the proud new owners of a camper-with-tent-glamping-extravaganza vacation place in Sweden!

So here we are. Glamping in Sweden with a toddler and a baby. (Crazy people, I’m telling you). In many ways, it’s awesome. We’re at a camping resort of sorts that’s absolutely made for families. It’s pirate themed (kitschy, I know, but it’s brilliant for young kids) with all kinds of entertainment: outdoor swimming pools, mini golf, several playgrounds, a mini train that you can ride for free every day, and even a small amusement park. Plus, there are a lot of other families with young children here, so there are built-in buddies for our kids. (Arik just doesn’t know it yet.) Within our first weekend stay, Linnea became good friends with a slightly older girl, Selma, whose family has the spot right across from us. We send them toodling off to the playground together and there is actually peace to be found in life once more!

There is, however, a downside to all this. Yeah, that’d be the camping (ahem, glamping) with the baby. The baby, I might add, who sucks at sleeping. Granted, it’s not all his fault; he had a rough first few months and it’s made him extra needy and super clingy to his mum. This kid fights naps like nobody’s business unless he strapped into the carrier and smooshed up against my chest. (Then, he sleeps like a champ.) And although he sleeps a bit better at night, he’s still waking up every 2-3 hours to be nursed. (Which, given our struggle to get him breastfeeding at all, I’m actually thankful for, even if I’d reeeeeally like to get a full night’s sleep again one of these days.)

I can handle the fairly frequent nursing – even though it entails wiggling myself into the bottom bunk of a camper bunk bed not made for adults – but this needy kid has decided to step it up a notch. The other night, he decided that 2-3 hours would just not do. Nope. No, sir. Every hour, thank you, Mum. And if that wasn’t rough enough on my needs-sleep-grumpy-as-all-get-out self, he decided that HE would no longer accommodate me in the slightest, including not turning his head to nurse. I had to prop myself up so I was literally hanging over him, my nipple dead centre over his mouth. Slightly to the side and that kid screamed bloody murder. And the little shit had me up NINE times that night. Needless to say, my shoulder is shot. And I was the grumpiest jerk you ever did see the next day.

Something had to give. I was leaning towards cutting our vacation short, heading home and spending the next couple of weeks sleep training. But as Arne-Morten pointed out, we could just as well do the sleep training here… You’re welcome, fellow campers!

So last night, we embarked on our sleep training journey. (Side note: if you are adamantly anti-sleep training, go ahead and stop reading. Do not bother lecturing me about it; I really don’t give two shits if you think I’m a horrible person. Really. You raise your brats, I’ll raise mine, MmmK?) Thankfully, I have a really supportive husband who’s not afraid to be “the mean dad,” when necessary. (He makes up for it by being the world’s best dad on the regular. Seriously. That man was born to be a parent; he makes it look easy.) We got Arik and Linnea to bed at their normal time. Linnea, that little rockstar, quickly fell asleep. Arik fussed a bit more and seemed more than a little bit put-out that I was sitting on the floor beside him rather than lying next to him, but eventually, he, too, nodded off. Enter a few hours of precious Mum ‘n Pappa time! Several hours later, as we were getting ready to call it a night ourselves, Arik began his usual “it’s been three hours, woman, where is that boob?!?!” song and scream. I got him out of bed (my shoulder was NOT up for any more of that hovering nipple shenanigans!), nursed him, and then put him in the bassinet part of his stroller, beside the camper table. (We decided to spare Linnea as much of the grief as possible and engage in the sleep training on the other end of the camper from her. Cuz, you know, those paper-thin walls really keep things quiet…)

At first, it seemed like it was actually going to go alright. Arik chirped to himself for a bit and then went quiet. We foolishly thought we had won. The cries started small at first, as if he was warming up his vocal cords for the big show. Gradually, he amped them up. “Don’t go to him. Give him five minutes, at least.” My husband is more immune to those cries than I. After a few minutes, I whispered, “Maybe I should talk to him so he knows he’s not alone?” We agreed I should try that. “Arik, baby, I’m right here. Mamma’s here.” Rookie move, mom, rookie move. Full. On. Wails. That kid was never worried he was alone, he was testing the waters, seeing if I’d take his bait. The second he heard my voice, it was anger time. He started caterwauling as only a pissed off baby can. Arne-Morten dutifully got up and “plugged the baby.” (Gave him his soother.) That only pissed him off more.

And so began our hour of “ok, another five more minutes.”
We let him holler for five minutes at a time before Arne-Morten would go and re-plug him. If he still had his soother and was howling around it, Arne-Morten would take it away and give him three minutes to find his thumb instead, before giving the soother back for another five minutes. This went on for a little over an hour before Angry Baby finally decided he was done with our nonsense and went to sleep.

Arik woke up four hours (!!!) later for another feed and then fell asleep fairly easily again. Three hours after that, he was ready for more. I was hoping to get another couple hours in (greedy, I know!) but ‘twas not to be. Big Sister had woken up from a nightmare at this point – a little before 6am – and needed to climb in with us. Of course, “climb in with us” does not mean more sleep. It means whispers that are louder than “inside voice” and a constant barrage of chatter. Soon, we had two little punks in our bed and ain’t nobody sleepin’ at that point. So our day started – a little earlier than planned, but a helluva lot better than the one before. Bring on night two of sleep training!