Despite my decision to enact a moratorium on family holidays, we accepted the generous invitation of my parents to take Eva and the family dog, Piccolo to spend the holiday weekend on a luxury island off St. David’s. My father and a business partner have a holiday rental on a St. David’s outcrop, which they market to tourists and sometimes when it hasn’t been booked up there will be a weekend, which is free for the family. Don’t ask me why they asked us, maybe after my other siblings declined for other social engagements. My whiney screeching child scares off social engagements so Chris and I were free to accept what would turn out to most certainly be our last invitation. If my parent’s didn’t want to have Eva to spend the night before our holiday weekend, it will not ever enter the realm of possibility now.
One day after work, Chris came home nose in his blackberry as usual.
“Martin’s friend Kevin is visiting and we are planning on a night out on Saturday the 29th of August.”
“That is when we are going to be on the island.”
“I haven’t had a night out in 2014.”
“You are not counting your happy hours.”
“I would like to go. I will kayak out the next day.”
“Are you that desperate?”
“You don’t have to kayak, my brother will pick you up and bring you out.”
The week before our mini-trip, Eva came down with the dreadful summer cold that was going around nursery. Never to miss out on a contagious illness, Eva contracted the dreaded cold and cough the week before Labor day. When Eva comes down with an illness it is marked by a restless night of lots of crying and little sleep, I knew that this meant the cold had arrived, but when my 9am shoot the following day did, I was wishing for pajamas and an early night fall.
The worst childhood illness is by far the stomach flu, because as a parent you usually get sick too, and then there is cleaning up vomit and diarrhea multiplied by people in the household, because no one escapes. But at least the Norwalk virus only lasts 24 hours. The second worst childhood illness is the cold and cough combination, and that is what Eva contracted. Which meant not one night with frequent wakings but many because the cough was worse at night; she would hack and wake herself up then she would fuss because she was overtired then when she would eventually go back to sleep she would wake up again with a night terror brought on by lack of sleep or she would hack until she threw up. This series of events started the vicious cycle because without sleep the cough got worse, so the nights got worse, etc. etc.
And at the peak of this illness, I had visions of Eva taking long naps while I read my book with Piccolo on the hammock on Labour day, and so I began to pack her bags for the mini-trip.
After almost three years, disillusion runs high and I am still having fantasies about my life before Eva instead of getting used to the fact that I will not have an hour to myself for many years to come, maybe when she learns to read.
When I started hunting around for a portable water bowl for Piccolo, and Chris was ironing his outfit for his night on the town he said,
“I don’t think it’s the best idea to take Eva AND Piccolo out to the island by yourself.”
“I want him to come!’
“What if he goes missing in the bushes, why don’t I bring him out tomorrow.”
“On the kayak? Just kidding. Okay you might be right.” And I put down the water bowl.
As I counted the bags of food, clothes, toys and books, my mothers words rang through my mind.
“Don’t bring too much stuff.” I didn’t really think that was possible and my mother should no, she ships her entire wardrobe around in advance.
Before I boarded my dad’s boat with all the bags of supplies I said to Chris,
“I think I have packed everything.”
“Oh I am sure you have forgotten something, but I can bring it out tomorrow.”
“Okay have a great boys night out, Eva and I will read stories by the campfire.”
“See you tomorrow.”
When we arrived, we heaved all the groceries and supplies and suitcases into the house. I unpacked Eva, showed her her bed and mommy’s bed and explored the house. Her favourite feature was the extremely steep steps with out a proper railing, which was in the center of the house.
All I could think was, “If she falls down those steps, Chris will kill me.”
It was then I realized that luxury houses were not built with child proofing, nor were their modern sleek lines and glass furnishings at all suitable to allow a kid to run around in. The entire place was a very pretty version of hell for the mother of a two year old. And I was facing the night alone.
We capped off the afternoon with a tantrum because we could not work the television, and therefore she could not watch her favourite cartoon.
“Scooooooby Dooooooo” she kept saying in sobs.
“I really need to figure out how to download those on the ipad, I am sorry Eva.”
Not that that made any difference.
When she had finished sobbing, she agreed in exchange for stories and her milk that she would go to bed. Unfortunately for me “go to bed” doesn’t mean, “go to sleep.”
I put her down on her mattress on the floor, having learned on holiday that she was not really ready for a big girl bed. I laid next to her, read her lots of stories and then stroked her arm and leg and face in little fairy circular movements which she says helps her sleep, but I think she might be testing me to see how much she can ask me to do for her before I give up, get annoyed, and leave. But today given the circumstances I was willing to do a lot more than normal. How I envied the parents who just plop their kids in bed and say “Go to sleep.” I guess that’s what you do to number 2 because you still have to read books and go through the bedtime ritual for number 1.
Eventually, she was content enough for mommy to leave her so I slipped out and flipped off the light.
“Fuck, I forgot her nightlight.”
“Mommy I am scared. Tell me a story.”
I wonder if she is scared because I swore, not at her but at the dark. Twenty more minutes of reassurance, stroking, and stories, after I had figured out how to turn on the closet light to cure her fear of the dark. I slipped out, scaled the stairwell and poured a glass of wine.
A few minutes later a face appeared at the bottom of the stairs,
“Mommy I am thirsty.”
“So am I.” I thought.
So I got her a drink and took her back to bed. Bedroom routine x3
I snuck back upstairs, and made the salad for dinner.
A face appeared a few minutes later at the top of the stairway.
“Mommy I am hungry.”
“So am I. “ I thought.
“I want strawberries.”
So I cut her some strawberries and she ate half of one strawberry. Clearly this was a new delaying tactic… strawberries.
Bedroom routine x4.
I was starting to get lactic acid build up from climbing the stairs over and over again.
We sat down and ate dinner, and I finally relaxed into my Holiday weekend, sure that she had to have collapsed by now. As we were clearing up that same face appeared at the bottom of the steps to my astonishment.
“Mommy I am scared.”
I looked at my watch 11pm.
“I am just going to go to bed with her, “ I said.
And I climbed down the stairs for the last time until morning, I thought.
“Do you want to sleep in mommy’s bed?”
So I snuggled with Eva in the bed, and all I could think was thank God I didn’t bring Piccolo.
At 4am I was awoken by a mini puke/spit up next to my head and loud screaming.
Three glasses of wine and five hours of sleep don’t mix very well, but I staggered out of bed trying to man handle my screaming, coughing child. At some point I got the whiff of spit up emanating from my hair.
“Did you have to throw up into my hair?” I thought.
“Mommy my mouth hurts.”
“You coughed so much you threw up, and the throw up is hurting your mouth.”
I took her into the bathroom and told her to open wide, which she tried to do but I could not see in until she began screaming. I carried her into the hallway, where her screams bounced off the post modernist open plan house.
“Powerful acoustics.” I wondered when Gigi and Hamma would wake up, but I could hear them safely snoring.
“We will get you something to drink to make it better.”
When I got upstairs, I opened the fridge door.
“Fuck, I forgot the Nurophen! “ Her pain relieving medicine and her night light, the two things I forgot and the two things I really could have used.
She started crying again until I stuck the bottle in her mouth and prayed for sleep.
“How could I forget the Nurofen!” I wondered. I had a line of empty bottles on a shelf at home, like I used to have a line of Bacardi light bottles in college, and in Eva’s drawer there are more syringes than in a crack dealer’s bedside table. Not that I believe in over medicating your child, but when you have really had enough of being up all night, a good pain reliever comes in handy.
I went upstairs and downstairs meeting her every demand, stroking her back, her face, her arms, singing, making up stories about magic trap doors in her closet, fairy houses, and building a bunny burrow under the sheets. She fell asleep for a few moments a few times, short lived and very very disappointing.
By 6am we were permanently upstairs and out of bed. We had tested out every outside chair together and I explained to her what happens in the sky when the sun rises and that it turns the sky pink, her favorite color. As soon as I told her that, I knew we were up for the day and sleep was not going to happen, so I suggested we move to the hammock in a last effort to bring on slumber.
“Yes” she said and within a few minutes we were swinging under the morning twilight.
And then a minute later, “ I want to get off.”
“Yeah so do I, off this bloody island.”
“Let’s go to the dock.”
We sat down on the floating dock, watching the sunrise. I tried to feign gratitude and appreciation for beauty but all I wanted to do was go to bed. As we sat and walked along the dock and looked for fish- who were all asleep, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself, and think about that woman who drove her car with her five children into the sea. If I had five children, I would have asked to carpool. If I had five of these who kept me up all night I would not survive, I already have several auto immune diseases, a burnt out thyroid, shot adrenals, hibernating mitochondria and several parasites, including the one looking for fish over the edge of the dock. So I thought nothing of adding a IUD to make sure I didn’t get anymore.
“I think we better go upstairs.”
“In case mommy falls asleep and you fall over board, everyone will think I pushed you.”
“Let’s go upstairs and make eggs.”
I had read somewhere that eggs had a lot of omega fats and that they were good to fight off post partum depression, something I had clearly been suffering from since her birth, but on second thought I would rather self diagnose myself with toddler induced insomnia and post traumatic stress disorder which happens after giving birth to children like Eva.
I eventually fell in and out of sleep on the couch while playing Peppa Pig toons on my ipad off of youtube. I was so tired I fell asleep while listening to “My Name is Peppa Pig….” I had either a dream or a hallucination that I was trapped on an island with Peppa Pig and her entire family, but then I woke up to Eva banging my temple with the reflex hammer from her doctor kit and then I knew that no I was trapped on an luxury island with my family, in a Peppasode called “Escape from Alcatraz.”
When I had had enough of being tortured with toddler sized multi coloured doctor instruments, I took Eva downstairs, where the snoring had stopped. Miss Eva slipped through the door into my parent’s bedroom where they complained about not having a good night’s rest.
“Tell me about it, I have been in toddler hell since 4am.”
“Hamma will you take me to look for fishes.”
“Yes.” Hamma was always the weakest link.
As she took his hand, I made good my escape into the bedroom. A few hours later I woke up, recovered.
By the time I surfaced, most of my parent’s lunch party guests were en route, so I had to quickly make the salad and dressing I had been assigned to make as part of the party pot luck.
When the first guests arrived I was still in my nightgown, perpetuating the night from hell, and come to think of it, I probably still had spit up in my hair.
“Go downstairs and get tidied up, I know Dr. West has seen everything, but no one else has.”
You would think I was in a negligee not a Williamsburg dowager night dress, but it was more unseemly than anything else, especially with spit up as an accessory. Eva and I went downstairs to try and reinvent ourselves before everyone else arrived which we achieved barely.
I was more than relieved to see Eva’s Daddy step off the boat, and as soon as she saw him she burst into tears, more or less as she had been doing all morning, and her speech had morphed into a mono syllabic whine.
I quickly debriefed him as I handed her over and sat down for a minute of silence and a glass of lunchtime wine as Chris attempted to put Eva down for an afternoon nap.
About when Chris determined that the nap was never going to happen because she was just too sick, overtired, out of place, and generally pissed off, it started to torrential downpour, putting the breaks on our escape plan. These are not common in Bermuda, but during the month of August we had record rainfall. This narrowed our play area substantially, especially when we brought Eva near the lunch party, and explained that she had been up from 4am and was sick and that was why she was screaming and ruining their afternoon- there was not much sympathy from the congregation of adults who hadn’t been in charge of a toddler for over thirty years, because if you knew my mom you knew she liked to keep younger friends in case the older ones started to die off.
Chris let Eva look out the window, played hide and seek and make believe. At one point we rendezvoused on the couch when it was clear the rain was here to stay.
Chris said to me with a pleading tone,
“We are stuck on an island and we can’t get off.”
“It’s still your turn with the gremlin.”
“If it doesn’t stop raining we might have to spend the night.”
The wine flowed as the revelers had an easy excuse not to leave.
“We can’t get wet.”
So they made sure their wine glasses were never dry.
I was enjoying myself as Chris and Eva paced up and down the open plan designer showcase house, desperate to find a convincing argument for why coloured fragrance hand soaps are not block like crayons with which you can draw all over the walls.
I had packed all our bags. They were waiting by the door for the first party weary guest to offer us our escape route.
Finally it came, a beautiful rainbow glistened in the sunlight and rain as the downpour subsided to a sprinkle and there was a collective movement to leave.
“Finally! “ I said to Chris
“The Vodka must have run out, your mum is sending the boat back for supplies and we can stowaway.”
And so we boarded with our seven bags, which had barely been unpacked. Holiday weekend thwarted by sickness, rain, and an optimistic mother of a toddler.
Once home, we unpacked our bags from the dock and put everything back where it had always been, careful to put it back exactly in the dust circle it left behind, and convinced never to move it ever again.
Chris and I finally were able to connive Eva and her cough to go to sleep at 8pm and we were able to enjoy an evening at home, like the many before and the many I hope in our future.
The luxury island was a nice idea but maybe we could escape there when Eva is a teenager and wants the house to herself.
I said to my mother while at the island,
“I can’t wait until she is seven.”
But I am thinking now that “I can’t wait until she is seventeen.”
I might regret that statement later but for now let me wish away the toddler years but be grateful for our Escape from Alcatraz.
Xx Derelict Mom