Back from a long weekend road trip—a night at my parents, a night with each of our brothers, then back to my parents, and finally home again. About twenty four hours in each stop for Felix to see his uncles, and for S and I to explore the cities they live in. I had anticipated this as being relaxing, as I figured more hands would allow S and I time to be grownups. But I’m far more exhausted today than before we left.
It’s not like we schlepped a lot of baby stuff with us. Other than my parents’ pack-n-play, we traveled light. Nor was Felix especially fussy. But travel meant a different routine for him each night, with new people to see and play with, and an unusual sleeping environment. He was up and down more to feed in the wee hours, and his energy was variable during the day as he fell asleep whenever we drove longer than two blocks.
Of course we had a good time watching him interact with fam. And we did a lot of things we’d always wondered about: changing him in strange places, having long meals out in crowded restaurants, strapping him in the car seat for record amounts of time, discovering the limits of his binky appetite, adding to the number of public venues he breastfed in. All of which taught me that even though other people can help out, there’s a special role the parent plays in caring for the baby that only they can fill.
This was less so when Felix was a little bundle of sleep, able to be bounced and rocked by anyone. But as he gets more and more of a personality, we become more and more of the experts on how exactly he likes to be cared for. It’s gotten so that certain holds drive him nuts, and that he cries differently when he gets sleepy than he does when trying to take a shit or bored. We’re the best at interpreting this.
So while Felix had a lot of fun with his fam, S and I had a constant eye and ear attuned to him, which made being social and seeing sights and navigating new places more draining than usual. Once, on a tour of the brewery my brother works at, S swore she heard baby wails when we were deep in the basement, far from him. Add to this the disruption of sleeping in strange beds just inches away from baby and the psychological weariness that comes with living out of a bag for four long days and you get one tired daddy.
I’m not trying to imply we’re the kind of nutty parents who swoop in whenever the baby’s discomforted, or that our family members didn’t know how to care for him. Quite the opposite. I learned a great hold by watching my brother, and we happily left him in other people’s care at least a couple times each day. But I do agree with the truism that no one knows their child quite like the parent. It makes sense—we’ve spent the most time with him.
And not only do we feel responsible for helping Felix be as comfortable as possible, we don’t want to annoy or inconvenience our hosts. That’s part of being a good guest, and it’s in our best interest too. We love to travel, and appreciate a spare bedroom. But who wants a crying baby coming to visit?
My goal for future trips is to slow down a little so we can all acclimate to our settings. Instead of planning a broad agenda—hopping from place to place—we’ll go deep, settling in before moving on. This is my natural inclination when traveling anyway. Again I’m reminded that, like with most things baby related as well as in life at large, I’ve got to trust my instincts.