Ever since Muffin and Squeaker were born, Nomi and I have mostly avoided taking them on long trips. I know of many people who have flown across the country or even the world with their infant children, but the logistics of even a quick jaunt to New York City to see my aunts seemed too daunting with twins in the mix. The furthest we’ve taken the kids from Brookline has been to Burlington, to visit Nomi’s parents.
However, last weekend our sedentary streak came to an end. One of our nephews, Nomi’s sister’s son, was having his Bar Mitzvah in Silver Spring, Maryland. We’ve known this was going to happen for about thirteen years now, ever since we were at his bris in 1998. But it hadn’t occurred to me two years ago that the birth of Muffin and Squeaker now meant that the trip would be a lot more complicated. (To be fair, I had other things on my mind at the time.)
I will admit that I was rather apprehensive about the trip. Given my metaphorical paralysis, I let Nomi and her parents figure out the best way to go. I had been thinking that driving down made the most sense, as I didn’t want to inflict the possible crying jags of two toddlers onto other passengers. But instead, the family chose a train ride down and back as the best way to travel.
The logistics of getting the kids (and our eight bags, plus a stroller) to the train station, to Maryland, and back home seemed insurmountable, . Fortunately, some dear friends helped us out. On Friday morning, one friend came over and drove us to South Station; when we returned, another friend picked us up, with the kids’ car seats already transferred over from the other friend’s car.
In between were the train rides and the Bar Mitzvah.
It turned out the train ride down was the least of our problems. The girls enjoyed it immensely. They began the ride sitting on my lap, wanting me to read to them, but they soon found great pleasure in looking out the window at the scenery and jumping back and forth from Nomi and my seats to Nomi’s parents’ seats. (We had managed to snag two sets of four seats where the pairs faced each other.) Nomi’s mother had brought a set of crayons and pads of paper, and the girls spent a lot of time sitting on her lap, drawing.
As for the rest of the weekend, the girls behaved very well whenever we were in public. They sat quietly during the Saturday morning service as our nephew read from the Torah (and as their father was called up for an honor). At the Saturday and Sunday afternoon luncheons, they again sat quietly during the speeches. About the biggest problem we had with them in public came as a result of the Sunday luncheon centerpieces, which were tall glass vases filled with super ball toys; the girls loved nothing more than to pour the balls out onto the table and play with them.
This is not to say that there weren’t a few hiccups, but they mostly took place in private. At a family dinner Saturday evening, Muffin ate so quickly that she spit up a lot of what she ate. We figured she was all right, however, as after a moment of confusion she started shoving her half-eaten cookie into her mouth. Also, the girls were unhappy with the cribs in the hotel room the first night, and wailed for a while, but by the next night they adapted.
The big problem didn’t develop until we were on the train home.
For most of the trip, the girls were quite happy. At one point, when we fed them snacks, Muffin enjoyed a lot of grapes and Squeaker ate five cheese sticks, smiling all the while.
However, the torrential rain that hit the northeast on Sunday night and Monday caused flooding in the tunnels just south of Baltimore. Our train was stuck in a tunnel for almost two hours, while the train crew had to wait for the water to recede.
Our original plan would have had us home for the kids’ bedtime. But because of the two-hour delay, the kids were up way past their bedtime. I’ve discovered that when toddlers feel tired, they don’t always express this exhaustion by falling asleep. Sometimes they whine.
Right before we reached Providence, Squeaker began having a tantrum/meltdown. These meltdowns confuse me, because she’ll wail and thrash and ask for something, such as a favorite toy, and then when you offer it to her she will push it away and continue her thrashing. As much as you want to comfort the tantrumming toddler, in the end, sometimes all you can do is wait out.
We did in fact make it back, and as of this writing Muffin and Squeaker are back on track and very happy to be home. Amusingly enough, I’d say that the biggest problem we had all weekend wasn’t the fault of the kids. Nomi and I had kept very busy the week going into the trip, culminating in a wedding on Thursday night at which we gave away the bride. On Friday night, I was so exhausted that I fell asleep during dinner and had to be pushed back to the hotel in a wheelchair.
This week’s column is written by Michael A. Burstein.