One of the most fascinating elements of life is the fact that we are all presented with challenges and circumstances throughout our respective durations that offer us opportunities to learn, if we choose to pay attention and take heed.
We learn that hot things hurt to touch, heavy things are not easy to lift and objects in the sideview mirror are closer than they appear. We learn not to take the value of friendship lightly, that there are some ramifications to eating four bacon cheeseburgers a day and that everyone has an opinion — on nearly every topic one could fathom.
Since my beautiful daughter came in to the world three months ago, I’ve learned that one small smile can indeed change the perceived fortunes of any particular day, that diapers can sometimes hide horrifying and unspeakable things waiting for you on the other side and that parents really have no “down time” that doesn’t involve stealing sleep, mumbling in strange tongues or doing laundry.
Oh, and I learned that taking a 3-month-old baby on a long car drive is not the wisest decision a person can make.
Since bringing her home from the hospital after her much-anticipated arrival to this world, the lovely Princess McCann has been pretty consistent as far as sleeping in her car seat. She gets a little fussy when getting strapped in, often targets a somewhat-evil look at the offender who’s trapped her in said car seat and then drifts off into a world of dreaming about pacifiers, bottles and screaming at 3 a.m.
I figured this little trip to see some family would be easy as pie. She’d sleep. She’d wake up when she needed a bottle or changing. And she’d drift back into a world of peaceful slumber.
Now, let me tell you what really happened.
The first 20 minutes involved her yelling at her mother and me like we stole something from her. That adorable little face that melts my heart each time I stare into it? It was replaced by something else. Something dark.
She was not pleased to be in a car seat. She was not happy that she was unable to do whatever she saw fit to do at the time. And she was seemingly convinced that if she managed to yell at decibel levels higher than a jumbo jet taking off in the middle of a Metallica concert, she would somehow will the car to come to a stop and she would be freed from her restraints immediately.
After those initial 20 minutes, our young bundle of joy seemingly cried herself to sleep. Nervously, her mother and I made eye contact through the rear view mirror and shared a smile of relief. The worst was over. We braved the storm. Now it was smooth sailing until we reached our destination.
It was at about that time we encountered a downpour of rain and high winds that caused me to turn the volume down on the radio, lean forward a little more in my seat and focus intently on the task at hand. For me, a good task is always welcomed. I like to have a goal in front of me, and I had a very clear and important one at this time — get my family to its destination safe and sound.
That’s when Princess McCann decided to up the degree of difficulty on my goal a little bit.
A lot bit.
She woke up, and she woke up angry. Her pacifier, often spotted on her face as frequently as her nose, was not pacifying. Gentle talking and soothing efforts from my wife went over as well as telling my reporters we have an early deadline. I tried explaining to her what the electorate process was all about, certain that would put her back to sleep, but all that did was make her more angry and confused.
In hindsight, I should have probably seen that coming.
As the rain fell harder, her screams became more heartfelt. With the little mirror attached to the back seat I could see tiny tears falling down her cheeks. I then turned my head a little to see tears falling down my wife’s cheeks. A special kind of idiot in an SUV cut me off, causing tears to fall down my cheeks.
At some point in the drive, the rain stopped. Traffic lightened a little, and I was able to relax my death grip on the steering wheel a bit. The wheel looked the one John Candy was holding in “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” after his near-death experience on the highway — bent over in half, with my fingerprints forever embedded in its form.
And the baby cried.
We eventually did make it to our destination, put the baby down for a very long nap and a glass of adult beverage quickly made it to my lips before the contents disappeared. Life was right again, before a horrifying thought hit me.
We’d be driving back home Thursday.