What is a sensible ratio between travel time and time actually spent on your vacation spot? I am not sure what the answer is but 48 hours after we left our Harlem pad, and some royal screw ups from our airline company, DH angrily said: we have just lost 12 hours of vacation time. Almost as depressing is the fact that we already had 3 leaks per child meaning that after just 48h of vacation I already had to do 2 laundry washes. Vacation, my ass…
Things had started swell. With Thor’s help, we took some well behaved kids to the airport by public transport. We then managed to not only smuggle some fresh milk but also buy some additional stash from McDonald’s. Yeah!!!
We felt it was just our lucky day: families with babies had priority boarding on the XL airways plane (it was our first time using this low cost airline – more on this later) and we managed to have a beer in a quite civilized way by the waiting lounge. All was goos. At least it was until we realized with horror that half of the passengers were families with very, very young children. In average, there was at least 2.5 children per family. My entire face just melted like cheap wax on flames. The entire aircraft was like fucking Disneyworld. On ecstasy. One tantrum away from a general meltdown.
I did not close an eye during the whole flight and even gave my seat to my high maintenance little G. I tried to ‘sleep’ on my bended knees on the plane’s floor patting his majesty’s ass. What devotion…And as I thought we handled the flight delay and the 7 hours New York-Paris flight pretty well, I was reminded on landing how delusional I had become as a mother. Indeed while I was trying to locate G who was ‘playing’ Hide and Seek in an empty plane – yep we were the last ones to leave, no surprise there – I was told by a flight attendant ‘G, G, G…this boy is so fuuuulllll of energy. He neveeeer sleeps, does he? G…it is the one name I kept hearing during the whole flight. G, this. G, that.’ Me: fake ‘hahaha’ and thinking ‘G, if you don’t get out of your hiding spot now….I am going to skin you, I swear!’
It is true my boy is like a mad dog: when about to board the first aircraft, god knows how, he found a button to release the connecting bridge and the whole thing started to fucking shake. On the second aircraft, he tried to pull the emergency handle of the plane’s back door in front of horrified stewardesses….The only thing that keeps him steady is the Ya-Ya, code name for the IPad. And after a 5 hours flight delay (on the Paris-Ajaccio leg), I was not going to remove the Ya-Ya from him whatever the air regulations were. I mean, we have been that the delay was due to the plane being stuck in Stockholm first, Bangkok then and New York finally… What the hell???? S-U-R-R-E-A-L. We also got stuck boiling for an hour in a cramped bus on the tarmac. Yep. For real. So when the flight attendants told us to switch off the Ya-Ya on take off, I basically ignored their order. I, usually obedient and civil citizen, looked at them with a blank stare exhausted and had that answer fully formed in my mouth, ready to lash out: ‘I am paying for a full price air fare. The ticket is under his name. You deal directly with him, see how he takes it’. Well, they knew better and sheepishly pretended not to see…Yeah, that’s what I thought.
PS: we finally arrived and here’s the view from the villa’s garden.
As labor day week end approached so did the daunting end of the summer. Soon we would stop sweating, panting and having a $300 monthly electricity bill due to the air conditioning being constantly on. $300! It is more than 10 brunches with unlimited mimosas…It is thus a cause for mass celebration.
Typically New Yorkers have made plans to leave the city to bask in the last rays of sunshine with other New Yorkers (that’s the only crowd they can really stand in the end so they do regroup at any possible occasion). The rat race for house rentals in the Hamptons (the wealthier and glitzier people), Fire Island (the gay-ier and more bohemian peeps) and the Catskills (the agoraphobic type) started months ago. Even deadlier is the race for rental cars. And with 3 babies under 2 we are losing the race for rare seven seaters pretty much each time . True, if we had not been strategizing over what to do but actually made some decisions instead we would not be in this situation. As I was complaining to my friend Victoire about my failure to find a seven seater in the whole of NYC at the new local cafe Frederick Cafe Bistro, it became clear that Victoire and her family were the ‘we have it all figured out’ and accomplished version of us.
Victoire and her husband also have twins and a newborn. However I am mesmerized when she tells me that at the daycare her twins hold their hands and walk in line with other kids. The first and last time G & P held hands they ran and crashed into our apartment wall. Photo evidence below:
Her newborn Yves is sleeping through the night at 3 month old…He sleeps from 10pm to 4 or 5am. It is like Heaven that I cannot touch. L is almost 4 month old and I am thinking of running a blood test on him. He stares at me all the time, never sleeps and only feeds at nighttime. I am starting to think he might be a vampire baby (he is pasty and drools a lot too). Her husband is a teacher, the fantasy job of DH and he actually plays European football as opposed to watching NBA games like DH and I. Of course they had a house in the Hamptons to go to for the Labor Day week end and a car to get there …But just as I was going to label her as a ‘got it together’ mom she started to tell me how she was worried Social Services may call upon her if she was seen chasing around her fighting twins while half naked with a baby hung from her breast. I am trying to comfort her:’at least it’s the summer. In a few months everyone will be getting sick and not only will we be running round half-naked, we’ll be covered in puke too… ‘ We had a one minute of silence contemplating the horrifying times ahead of us. Chilling.
Anyway I am digressing. It is Labor Day week end so we needed to get out of the city! That is when we went crazy and decided to go to Long Beach in Long Island by train. Yes by train. I who take the cab to go to Upper East Side was going to take the train with DH, 2 toddlers, 1 baby, a teenager which means in material terms 2 stroller, 2 umbrellas, 1 straw mat, 1 cooler, 1 diaper bag, 5 beach towels and 1 beach bag. Yes all this by train. Piece of cake.
Surprisingly we did arrive at the beach following hordes of Manhattanites. We arrived sound and safe despite crossing paths at Penn Station with youngsters from Jersey leaving their shore to hit the City. The last time I saw so many silver bras, phosphorescent panties and fish net tops was in the early 80s. I seriously got almost blinded. I should really not criticize them considering my own poor choice of clothing (a leopard print jumpsuit) resulting from many breast milk leaks and ruining 3 perfectly OK outfits by 10am. Women above 25 should not wear leopard print, EVER. Today was a complete fashion fiasco anyway. I bought one those of high rise swim bottoms from SPANX which supposedly tucks everything in including the extra skin in the tummy area you get after a twin pregnancy. It is hard to believe it but yes your skin is getting so stretched out that you spend the last month of your pregnancy wondering when you will explode like a water balloon. The answer is NEVER; isn’t Nature well done :- ? I did not explode but alongside the extra fat I have to lose I can find that hanging second skin. So in order to do some damage control I did splash in SPANX swimwear and made a rookie mistake. One word: FUCHSIA. The result: I looked like a saucisson sec. For those who are both lucky and unlucky not to know what it is here is some visual aid:
Fashion disaster aside, all of us did enjoy ourselves at the beach and we even got friendly with our neighbors or should I say G decided to befriend our neighbors when raiding shamelessly their bag of chips, their fruit platters and even perhaps their cookies. He got so intrigued by our male neighbor’s tattoos that he started to touch them (did I just see him kissing them? Interesting; he is usually into tall red haired chicks with long legs…oh well…). I was almost embarrassed but was too happy that it was G’s first encounter with tattoos. DH said: ‘I bloody love the beach. What a great public space. Where else would our kids hang with tattooed people?’. True. Despite our claim to have a very diverse group of friends which include old people, gay men, married people, hardcore singletons, child free people, big families, African-americans, Africans, Asians, Europeans we cannot count tatoo covered friends and…lesbians among our friends.
Two hours and two poop explosions later the concept of public space took a deeper meaning when I started to argue with my tattooed neighbor about my kids’ upbringing. He summoned his girlfriend: ‘Just give him the whole bag of chips’ because G was being a little bugger and was flirting with everyone just to get crumbs of potato chips. I kept saying ‘No, thanks it is enough’ and he kept asking ‘why?’. I was slightly taken aback to be honest and stammered:’Why? Why? Well he has to learn self-control’. ‘Not at his age’ he deadpanned.
And here I was on the beach reflecting on this exchange while DH was working hard to not to lose P in the ocean and L was moaning about sun and sand (he is a vampire I am telling you). I then thought about the book ‘Bringing up Bebe’ which glorified French parenting and the use of authoritative ‘no’ that is supposedly absent in the vocabulary of American parents. I actually haven’t read the book but based on the premise I was not even sure where I was standing on this one anyway. I surely value the ceremonial around meals that the French have: sitting for hours at the table, conversing any topics including the food being served, no TV on, balanced meals etc. However I did not have such experience as a child since my family meals were like one of those sitcoms where characters get in and out of the shots and nobody knows who they are and why they came in the first place. My siblings and I would eat the same thing everyday for a whole week because my dad would fine tune his cooking skills on us. And you don’t want to know what Moroccan couscous cooked by a Lao man tastes like…Meal time was like musical chair really; you had to eat fast so a friendly neighbor or parasite relative could have the seat at the table. And all this with Thai soap operas blasting in the background. Joy.
As for the authoritative ‘no’ I am not sure how authoritative it is because the only parents I have ever seen screaming at their kids and threatening to smack them in a total meltdown in the middle of airports are French. The ‘tu m’emmerdes’, ‘t’arrete tes conneries oui?’ and other nice things like that now do shock me…Of course ‘NO” is in my cultural imprint and has unfortunately become my most used word and this despite trying hard to re-train myself and practice positive reinforcement For instance instead of saying: ‘NO, stop eating their chips’ I so wished I could have said ‘What about eating the watermelon cubes that your mom slaved to prepare this morning? (a little guilt trip never hurts, right?).
By the way why is DH trying to bury the kids alive?
I hate the sand, the sun and am not to keen on water either but I do love the beach because I get to reflect a lot by watching all these bodies grilling. Of course in the end I started having random thoughts and second guessing myself: maybe my mother in law is right when she says that I am raising my kids as Americans feeding them all day long and maybe my father in law is right when he says that I am getting devoured by my kids. Arrggg
Yes I love the beach but I should really learn to swim…