Thursday, December 11, 2008

Slip sliding away

Last Saturday was a nice day. We went to the gym as usual, came home and Will rang bells at the Salvation Army pot (something he does every year through Rotary) and Emily and I put up Christmas lights on the front porch. Well, I put them up, Emily kept her own little unintelligible but entertaining running commentary going the whole time. As we decorated the porch, a light snow was falling, and everything seemed very Christmas-y and nice.

Will and I planned to go to our friend Ken's house that evening for a wine dinner, and so we had arranged for mom to keep Emily overnight. I intended to leave around 6 to take Emily to my mom's house, then stop by the liquor store to pick out our contribution for dinner. My mom called at 4:30 to say that the roads might get bad, so I should probably leave soon to bring Emily over rather than risk coming later. I peered out the window at the friendly little flurries swirling by and thought "She's full of it, she just wants more time with Emily". Nevertheless, I packed everything (and everyone) up, and we left at about 5.

One of the things that makes me happiest about moving to the new house is that we don't have to worry about going over Braddock mountain anymore. I don't think Braddock is technically even a mountain...but at 950 ft it still is enough of a pain in the butt that I'd just as soon live on the side of it where all of my destinations are. The top of Braddock always freezes before the rest of the area, and there aren't many foothills, just a pretty steep ascent and descent.

So as I was merrily driving on 70 through the flurries to my mom's house (on the other side of Braddock), I noticed that traffic up ahead had stopped dead. "Ugh", I thought, "There must be an accident. Probably idiots who are getting freaked out by the flurries." I made a quick exit onto 40 Alt, thinking it would take me longer that way to get to my mom's, but at least I'd be moving and not stopped dead. No such luck. 40 Alt was also stopped dead going over Braddock. Luckily, I made another quick change in my route and headed over to 40. Ahhh, much less traffic.

Except that the actual road got really bad, really fast. As we entered the woods at the base of Braddock, traffic slowed to about 20 mph and I started to realize why the other two main routes over Braddock were stopped dead. People were off the road in all directions. You needed some speed to keep enough momentum to continue climbing, but getting up that much speed was impossible because you'd start to fishtail. I desperately wanted to turn around before I ran out of momentum and started sliding backward into the people behind me, but I knew if I pulled off the road onto the shoulder or into someone's driveway I risked getting stuck or else sliding into oncoming traffic if I tried to make a U-turn. I hung on and crept my way up to the Dan-Dee and pulled into the parking lot. Many people seem to have had the same inclination as me, because about 30 cars were slowly circling around the parking lot like grazing cattle. I managed to get myself turned around, and then I started the slide back into town. I cursed my parents for living on the other side of the mountain. I cursed the county for not having a single salt truck out on the roads. I cursed my Highlander for not having all wheel drive, and for not being as good in the snow as my dear little Audi A3 (go figure).

Anyway, Emily and I got back home unscathed thank goodness. And danged if I was going to miss the wine dinner. I needed some wine! So we packed Emily up and drove the 1 mile over to our friends' house for dinner.

Now you may be saying "Foolish woman, a toddler does not belong at a wine dinner!" and you'd be very right. But I was selfish, and I was overly optimistic.

Everyone wants to believe that their child is the exception to the rule. And even if you have been burned before, if you really want to attend something it's easy to convince yourself to give it another try.

And Emily really was very good. She was in a great mood the whole night, played well with the resident dog, and was generally charming. The problem was, there was an un-gated stairway, which was a huge draw for her. I spent most of the night chasing her up the stairs and holding her hand while she toddled down the stairs, grabbing sips of wine and bites of food here and there. It was pretty casual, so it was ok but I got tired quickly and while friends offered to take a turn here and there and Will did a couple rounds, I was still pretty worn out. On the way down the stairs one particular time, Emily fell. I was holding her hand at the time, but very loosely and her little hand slipped out of my grip and she went head over heels down about 6 stairs. I scooped her up at the bottom, and she wasn't hurt badly but she screamed. And screamed. And screamed. And vomited all over us. Thank goodness she didn't get any barf on my friends' carpet or belongings, but having your daughter take a collosal spill down the stairs and then vomit in front of a roomfull of your childless friends is embarassing. I felt pathetic, like I should have known better, like I was that old mom who had moved on to the next phase of her life but was still trying to act like she fit in with the people with no kids. like I was compromising my child's safety so that I could have fun, and definitely like I should have been holding onto her hand tighter. We got cleaned up a bit, then excused ourselves to go home where I put Emily to bed and then had a total breakdown. After the half hour I spent sliding around on the ice with my heart in my throat, and feeling ashamed for going out to the dinner even though I knew it would be difficult with Emily, the result being my child getting hurt, I was in pretty bad shape.

When you first have a baby, much of your world changes. But there are some things that don't change right away, at least not totally. You can still usually go out to dinner and to friends' houses and your baby will, with any luck, snooze the evening away in their infant carrier. But now, Emily notices when we leave her with Grammy and gets sad when we leave. If we bring her along she gets into everything and I don't enjoy myself anyway. I have been proud that Will and I haven't just disappeared into our house now that we have a kid; I think it's healthy to get out and keep doing some of the things you used to do. But where do you draw the line? I feel bad for the moms who say "I just HAD to get out of the house", because more often than not I wish I spent more time IN my house. I have a lot going on, between friends, all our family in the area, and getting to the gym when I can and I KNOW I'm lucky for that, but it makes it too easy sometimes to try to do too much when it would be in my daughter's best interest to stay home. Plus I am going out on New Years no matter what, so I have to hang out with Emily lots in the coming weeks so that I won't feel guilty!

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