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Still Going

We didn't travel with the kids when Bryce was three, but at the time, I thought this was a smart decision because Quinn was 18 months old. I now realize it was a smart decision because travel with a three year old and another child of any age is just a recipe for disaster. Bryce is five now, and if we were traveling with him alone, I'd probably be writing something mild and pleasant, like, "we're all a little tired, but we've had no problems at all" instead of what I'm here to write, the more depressing and asylum-worthy, "we're all still alive, but I don't know for how much longer," because Quinn - he is not five, he is three and a half.

After the first two days of travel where Quinn reminded us, his stupid, forgetful, trusting parents, that he is totally and comletely rabid-dog insane and will go darting out into streets or possibly force armed guards away from their posts to retrieve him from places he's not authorized to be madly, gleefully darting about, we finally started following through on our hand-holding mandate any time we took the child out in public. This works for a short period of time only when combined with the latest bribe - a pack of Smarties, his latest flash cards of choice, the chance to watch a movie - AND when he is the sole focus of one of us, and Bryce has no access to him to attempt meeting his undying goal of corrupting whatever delicate balance we're trying to maintain with Quinn.

There was a gas station stop today, the details of which I don't even know if I can bear to recount. I was alone with both kids, there was a crowded, tiny convenience store restroom, an accessible light switch, urine-soaked pants to change, a few screams (on the kids' part), some hisses (on mine), a LOT of threats, mostly empty (on all our parts). And after it was over, it wasn't over. I couldn't let it go, these several days of culminating disrespect and limit-pushing behaviors; it's all starting to feel like true, catastrophic failures on our part to teach any basic social rule to the kids, and after the gas station humiliation, I fell into a state of numb, silent resentment in the car. I could simultaneously be aware of my immature response to the kids and still have the audacity to carry it out. It was surreal, disappointing, and yet also somehow satisfying, even relaxing, just to sit there while they tried so hard to push the predictable buttons: Let's scream and see if she reacts. Hmm. What about kicking her seat? Odd. She's still just sitting there. Let's scream again. No, wait. Combine screaming and kicking. How about throwing? Wow.

After a few hours of that, we got to our halfway point and got out to walk around with the kids. It was another clear day with a light breeze, and as we waited to cross a street I looked down at Quinn, still so short and small, his light, wispy hair so easily tossed about by the smallest breath of wind, taking in the sights and sounds of a new city with what I have to believe is some form of remaining innocence, despite whatever colossal failures we've made, despite whatever mixed messages I give both of them (act the right way! but now that you didn't, neither will I! I will give you the silent treatment and metaphorically stick my tongue out at you!). I stood there looking at him and had to be the adult, the parent, to shake off my cloak of pissy, grudge-holding disappointment. I took another breath, gave his still baby-pudgy hand a squeeze when the light turned green, tried in a split second to burn the image of his small profile into my permanent memory files and said, "Okay, buddy. Now we can cross."

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