Monday, April 27, 2009

Why Tradeshows and Babies Don't Mix

            I’m at a tradeshow about a five-and-a-half hour drive out of town. It’s a two day affair, four days when you take in the day before and after. Ah, I love travel; time to get out of town and reflect… time to see a different geography. Different people. Have some drinks and mix some business with pleasure. I love travel. What a fantastic chance to get away from it all.
Problem is, I took the baby.
I am thoroughly amazed at myself that I thought this made sense. Somehow I had conjured up for myself some sort of glorified romanticized picture of the family getting out of town together; staying in a deluxe hotel room, seeing new things. It all somehow made sense when I first planned it.
            I’m exhausted. Sleeping in a hotel room, whether or not it has a massive hot tub, a fireplace, and king-size bed doesn’t matter, it’s still a single bed and a single room. I tried planning for this, mind you. We lugged up a portable crib that a friend passed along to us, which we’ve never used, and so I figured, heck, we’ve got it practically like we do at home. Just throw her in and we’ll sleep fine.
But the first night Michelle didn’t want to put the baby in the crib.
            I asked her grumpily at 2:30am, “Why isn’t she in the crib!?!”
            “It smells like plastic,” she explained.
            “So what!”
            “I’m not putting her in that.”
            End of discussion.
            I tossed and turned and fumed at my frustration. Not much you can do when the lady says she won’t do it. I even went over and smelled the thing, and to be honest I still have no idea what she’s talking about. But, the lady is boss when it’s 2:30am and I’m not coherent. Except for the little matter of a baby lying next to us flailing and whimpering and groaning throughout the night. I don’t care if you’re in a king-sized bed or not, especially if you’re Michelle, you’re staying awake.
And so, by 6am, Michelle had had enough. “It’s your turn,” she said to me. I looked at the clock, and then at her tired eyes, and didn’t complain. I put on my jogging clothes, strapped Celia into the jogger, and explored the town. And frankly, I have to admit, it was a wonderful morning. Gorgeous run along the placid lake. Baby and me just thinking and hanging out. It really was nice, even though I was pooped. And then we came back and while she napped for fifteen minutes I showered and then took her out to breakfast. We had a lovely little time together.
            But by the time the tradeshow started that evening, I was a mess. Oh, sure, I turned on the energy to meet people, but I certainly wasn’t in top form. I don’t remember exactly what I thought as I went to bed last night, at the end of it all, but I’m sure it wasn’t regret. Sure, I was missing out on all the schmoozing and having drinks with clients. That’s okay, I thought. I’m tired anyway. I finally went to sleep after 11pm sometime.
But the baby still wanted to flail. At 5am Michelle said, “Okay, it’s your turn.” I looked around and saw that she’d finally broken down and put Celia in the crib. I don’t know when in the middle of all those tosses and turns she’d broken down, and I didn’t say anything, either. Don’t complain when things go your way, I always say.
Still, I was tired and grumpy. And I hate being grumpy with the baby. It’s not her fault she’s awake, I definitely don’t want to take it out on her, but I certainly was not in the mood to interact with her either. And, of course, the baby started fussing to the point that Michelle asked me to take her out of the room. I rolled my eyes and plopped the little wailer clumsily into the stroller. We took a little stroll while she screamed, and she obviously wasn’t enjoying it, probably because I wasn’t enjoying it either. That whole morning I kept asking myself, “Why did I bring this baby on a business trip? Am I insane? I will never do this again!” I wandered around the hotel property fuming and frustrated.
Finally, after my third lap of the property, I softened. I had started to pray, and it struck me that even though I was behind her, she was probably picking up on my mood, and all that negative energy probably isn’t much of a help. I paused, looked around, and went into the lobby. I pointed the stroller toward me so I could look at her face., and gently rocked the stroller singing a little lullaby that I’d made up a few months ago:
“Oh, little Celia. You’re such a precious girl.
I love you in the morning, when everything’s a whirl.
I love you in the afternoon, when everything is right.
And I love you in the evening, when it’s time to say goodnight.
Now it’s time, it’s time, it’s time for sleep.
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time for sleep.
It’s time, it time it’s time for sleep.
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time for sleep.”
She loves that song. Especially the end, so I usually repeat it a bunch of times. As I kept singing she stopped crying and glanced at me. She looked around a bit, as if seeing where she was for the first time, and then there was that beautiful moment every parent loves. You can’t plan it, and you never know when they’ll happen, but when they do, you can’t help but be touched; that moment where she looked right into my eyes and we loved each other.
That did it. She fell asleep, and I brought her back up to the room and collapsed on the bed exhausted.
Today has been a very difficult day work-wise for me, and I ask myself if I can have the sense to refrain from bringing her on business trips next time. But at the same time, it’s all a learning curve, and I realize there’s still a lot to be thankful for. I guess that’s the thing about kids; they sure are a big old interruption into our lives, and they take a ridiculous amount of energy from us, but then, when we’re forced to put in that kind of energy, it’s bound to do good things to us.
I think in general in life when we put in a lot of time and effort into something meaningful, whatever it is, whether it’s volunteering or serving or cooking or cleaning or whatever, when we do that, we end up benefitting even more than those we’re serving. We become better people. And I think that’s what’s happening with me and Celia. She’s been a toll on my body and spirit and free time, and I’ve gained weight and black rings under my eyes, but I think, overall, I’m learning to be a better man because of her. And I am thankful.

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