It could be worse

Dear Evan and Lulu,

I say this to you a lot.

It could be worse. 

When Robie chews all your stuffed animals I tell you “It could be worse” because I know that I’ve already thrown away 250 mangled dolls, books, bubbles, puzzles, markers, and much more of your belongings that became carnage of Robie’s wrath.

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It could be worse is something you learn early in parenthood. It doesn’t come all at once but rather compounds through situations where you think to yourself “this is the worst thing I can imagine happening right now” and then something HUGE happens just to prove you wrong. It could be worse is formed through disaster diapering situations, injuries and illnesses, and often times traveling. The foremost It could be worse story in my memory happened on a car trip back from a Thanksgiving spent in Portland.

Evan was 14 months old, Lulu was still 1 month away from being unplanned, and we were on our first road trip with a baby.

Evan was the best car trip child imaginable on the way to Portland. She slept. She smiled. She sat quietly and looked like an angel baby, glowing in our backseat for nine straight hours.

Then we had to come back.

We left early in the morning, hoping she would still be sleepy and would nap for much of the drive. Fifty or so miles outside of Portland in the middle of nowhere, instead of opening her mouth to let sweet yawns escape she opened her mouth and projectile vomited all over the car. Forever it seemed. Horrible, wretched smelling, chunky mess of something straight out of a horror movie covered our car and our formerly angelic baby. Your dad immediately started dry heaving, barely able to steer the car between convulsions. Evan immediately started screaming. Terrified at the disaster that had just poured out of her mouth. I immediately started cursing because that was the only thing left to do.

We were on the freeway. No towns close by. Nowhere to pull over. Frigid temperatures outside and the worst smell imaginable trapped inside our toasty vehicle. We cracked the windows enough to allow a few gasps of fresh air. We blasted the heat to compensate for the frosted outside we were letting in. We prayed a random car wash would show up in the middle of nowhere. We had to settle for a public rest stop 15 miles down the road.

We split up. I took the puke covered child to the bathroom to attempt a 15 minute makeover. Your dad took the carseat to a grassy area to see if he could make any dent in a cleanup effort. We both struck out.

The sinks in the bathroom had a metallic bar that water trickled out of in drips not even large enough to be called drops. We could have spit more liquid than we could get out of the sink. I managed to at least get Evan’s clothes changed and then I carried her back out into the freezing cold, holding her like a live bomb that could combust at any time.

I found your dad making a horrible scene while attempting to clean out the carseat. He had found a volunteer run stand that was handing out coffee to tired truckers and they “loaned” (I don’t think they wanted it back) us a wash cloth with a cup of hot water. But the lack of cleaning supplies was the least of our problems because your dad still couldn’t stop dry heaving and every time he even looked at the carseat he doubled over.

Here is the part of the story where some people might look at it and think “man, that is a sucky situation.” Middle of nowhere. Freezing ass cold. Puke everywhere. Nothing to clean with. Crying child. Frozen fingers. A car that needed fumigated after the havoc it had seen. But parents will look at the situation and think “oh, it’s only getting started.” Because they know that It could be worse. 

And it was. Because as I took over the cleaning of the carseat, and as your dad went to set Evan inside the car for warmth, of course that sweet, angelic, perfect little baby took her chubby little baby fingers and locked the doors of the car. With the keys inside.

See how much worse that situation could be? See how it went from a really unpleasant scenario where we are all cold, covered in puke and gagging to a situation where we are ready to call 911 (but our phones are in the car of course) and looking for large objects to break through car windows with?

This is why parents use It could  be worse as a mantra. They don’t dare  consider a situation horrible without whispering those words because they’ve learned not to tempt fate like that.

In the end we survived. Our angel child returned long enough to listen to some desperate coaching from her daddy, and she stood on the driver’s side seat, turned her 14 month old body around, and reached with all her might to hand the keys out the back window that was thankfully still cracked an inch.

So you see, it could have been worse.

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