It’s all good, except for the screaming and the waking.
Like every other Californian who lived through this wet winter, I thought to myself: skiing? Yet it’s hard for us to get away. Wifey was nice enough to offer her birthday weekend, more specifically Memorial Day Weekend. Normally, the end of May is not an ideal time to ski, but after 50 feet of February snow, Squaw Valley announced it would be open at least that long. Wifey’s offer went beyond just her day: she said she could watch both our kids while I got in my first day on slopes since before Dar was born. Wow! We booked the Hyatt, a hotel we like in Incline Village, Nevada, and we hung out there for a day, and then on Sunday morning I arose early, drove the 45 minutes to Squaw, got in line for my lift ticket…
…and then I got the call.
“Dar is screaming. He’s been screaming for an hour. I’m at my wit’s end.”
Time to return to the hotel.
I drove the 45 minutes back, and by the time I arrived, R and wifey were hanging in a beach chair on the Lake Tahoe beach. Dar was chilled, literally and figuratively, wading his little feet in and out of the massive lake. Wifey said she was truly sorry, and I truly told her I truly didn’t mind. When Dar is on FREAK OUT, it is very hard to compartmentalize it and concentrate on, uh, anything else. Plus, it’s only skiing, the very icon that comes up when you google “first world problems.” (Or it should be.) And hey, I’d be able to go on Monday.
Sometimes we don’t know the antecedent. In this case, the proximate cause was Dar seeing a hot tub at the hotel designated for adults only. Wifey tried to walk Dar past it and take him to the family-friendly hot tub, but Dar wouldn’t budge. You never see this level of screaming from, uh, any other kid anywhere. Wifey says it’s not pleasant to have 100 people staring at her, and I don’t blame her, or them. If I didn’t know Dar, I’d assume he was a kid with a shard of glass working its way up his foot. The screaming is constant. With our other kid, we can say things like “If you continue this behavior, do you realize you get no screen time today?” Dar would demonstrate his understanding of that phrase about as soon as he cited the eleven currently accepted species of amphibious fish.
Wifey did what I would have done: she removed Dar from the pool area. He maintained his inimitable decibel level in our hotel room. At that point she worried about the neighbors. She couldn’t take him to the car because I had it. So she walked him and R to the lakeshore, maybe 100 meters from the hotel. The caterwauling continued. Wifey said she thought about it three times before she called. On the phone, I didn’t respond, “Oh, come on, don’t you think he’ll be calm by the time I get there?” I could hear him in the background and I know that that scream obliterates all rational discourse. My favorite living writer, Adam Gopnik, recently mused on this effect in the context of the Trump-inflected national mood:
You would think that people who think for a living would pause and reflect that whatever is happening usually does stop happening, and something else happens in its place; a baby who is crying now will stop crying sooner or later. Exhaustion, or a change of mood, or a passing sound, or a bright light, something, always happens next. But for the parents the wait can feel the same as forever, and for many pundits, too, now is the only time worth knowing, for now is when the baby is crying and now is when they’re selling your books.
All this is to say: I get it, and I got it. And we all got a great family day instead, in sleds (yes). Yes, as of May 30, 2017, there was still non-manmade snow all over the Sierras, especially above 8000 feet. For some reason, when we arrived at snow-covered Mt. Rose Meadows, Dar ran a couple of football fields away from us. No way of knowing why, though it might have had something to do with seeing other kids and wanting to find a steep enough slope to be able to roll down. Good thing for me he reached a point where he was slightly rolling down even as he tried to climb, so that I could catch up to him. We sledded together all the way down Mt. Rose, with just the right amount of Calvin-and-Hobbes-style crashes. (I make up all of Dar’s dialogue, so that analogy isn’t so far off. “Hey, why did you run 500 feet straight up a mountain, away from your mom and me?” “Modern alienation, of course.”)
The next day, I insisted that we go to Squaw Valley together as a family, so that if Dar had another five-alarm freakout, wifey could put him in the car and just drive around. Plus, Squaw has a fun village and a hotel pool and nature hikes and I figured there were many ways for them to have a good time. As the day turned out, I met my family once at High Camp (where Squaw keeps its museum cache from its 1960 Olympics) and once in the village during some badly needed ski breaks. And as it turned out, wifey didn’t need me at all. Actually, Dar’s little brother had become the whiney one. No surprise there.
So, all pros and cons accounted for, restful weekend, right? Right? Wrong.
When Dar sleeps in his own room, for some reason, he tends to sleep through the night. Or maybe he gets up and then puts himself back to sleep; hard to say. (Note I said “in his own room.”) We notice this at our house; we noticed it the weekend before, when Dar slept like a rock in an unfamiliar bed in his own room in my friend’s place in Los Angeles.
But you know, we’re not rich, so we share one hotel room as a family. The one at the Hyatt had two twin beds, one for us, one for them. The problem came every morning at about 4am or so when Dar decided to get up and tee-tee-tee around the room. Wifey and I have a mutually agreed upon division of labor for vacations: I do all the driving, and she manages night duty, so that I sleep enough to drive us safely. Yeah, that didn’t work so well last weekend. She couldn’t get him back down. As she got more upset with him, I worried that his brother would be awoken. Plus, I was bitterly awake. Thus, twice, I got up and yelled at Dar to stay down. And I stood there and watched as he lay in bed with eyes closed. And it worked, though it also worked to keep me awake. For some reason that we’ll never understand, Dar sees me as more of an authority. I make no gender generalizations (genderalizations?) here. My life would in fact be easier if he saw his mom as Cruella DeVille. Maybe she’s just too naturally nice.
Insomnia doesn’t make a great story. It just is.
On our last day of vacay, we lingered at the lake. We rented one of those paddleboats and tooled around, marveling at the crystal-clear water affording an unspoiled view of the sandy lake floor 20 feet below. Equally marvelous to me was the moment when I asked Dar to turn to me for a picture, and for me to find that he was already smiling and grinning. Wait a minute, Dar was enjoying our boat trip?!? All these little efforts we make to make him happy, they sometimes pay off? Who knew?
No, really, but it’s all good, except for the screaming and the waking.