After a harrowing journey by car from El Paso to San Antonio, I wanted to show the kids a good time before we headed to Austin on Sunday. We were in town because Hubs was attending a
nerd convention gaming exposition (which actually sounded cooler when he explained it) and since I was planning to drive the kids to Austin the next week, we decided to go early so Robby could help with the driving.
We arrived on Thursday evening and everyone was a hot mess, so we passed out and woke up Friday morning ready to take on San Antonio. Except for Jackson, who hated everything.
When Jackson turned three I honestly thought we were out of the woods with the whole “terrible twos” stuff. By the out of the woods I mean we leaped through the ring of fire while wearing gasoline-soaked pajamas and holding bottle rockets between our teeth. We got a little singed. But as soon as Jack turned three people started coming out of the woodwork, saying “oh man, three was much worse than two” and giving me anxiety burps that had me chugging antacids. I didn’t want to be mad at my kid all the time. I didn’t like the new person he was when he was tired or hungry or wanted something he couldn’t have. Where was my sweet little chubster who didn’t know how to manipulate, hit, whine, or sulk?
The attitude eased up around his third birthday and I decided I had a magical child that wasn’t going to be a threenager. Recently though, the Basket of No has made its dreaded return. Mostly, he is being three and kind of a jerk. But a good portion of the tantrums can be traced back to some other problem. Sometimes the problem is that I won’t let him drive the car, but often it’s more understandable. He didn’t sleep well, or is overdue for a snack. His brother is getting a lot of attention. Often I have to say no and correct him and scold him for being rough with his brother, dropping food on the floor that his brother is allergic to, getting too excited and throwing a toy, wanting to go to the park when his brother is napping, etc. And while it gives me no pleasure to rain on his parade, he tends to act out even more in these situations instead of understanding that I’m just trying to keep everyone alive for another day.
At first, Jackson was excited to go to this magical place called “Santa Tonio” and wanted to leave immediately. As we started packing, I could tell he was unsure and uncomfortable, and then I realized he thought we were moving again. It must be so scary to live in a world of such uncertainty and limited understanding. As a toddler with no concept of time who thinks every past even happened “yesterday”, he doesn’t understand “we’ll come back in two weeks” or “the drive will take
eight twelve hours”. No matter how I tried to reassure him, every once in a while he would start to panic and suddenly hate everything.
“I don’t want ANY dinner. I don’t like food. You are not my friend. I don’t like this hotel. NO Amano(Alamo)! Archie is poopy.”He was right about Archie, though.
We dropped Hubs off at the expo and drove a couple blocks over to the Alamo, where I intended to give a detailed history of the siege and its impact on Texas (after reading the placards myself, obviously). When Robby was maybe two, his parents took him to the Alamo and, after learning as much as he could, he asked detailed questions about the specific number of soldiers on each side and whether or not Mexico could invade again.
My kids are not my MIL’s kids. For starters, it was cold and blustery, which is not ideal for the little booger in the stroller. I wanted to park as close as possible, but the closest lot was $20 per day, with no option for 30 minutes of whining and crying until Mommy gives up and drives to ChickFilA. But then, I saw it. My saving grace. Across the street from the parking lot was a free* Fire Engine Museum. I couldn’t believe my luck! So we paid the exorbitant parking fee and headed to the museum first, and it was FANTASTIC. Run by retired firemen, the old firehouse has been turned into a very kid-friendly space with several old trucks and exhibits, and an entire room for kids to learn about fire safety. We were the only guests, so we got a personal tour and a real fireman let Jackson climb on a 65 year old fire truck and crank up the siren! Then we played with the toy firetrucks in the playroom for hours and Archie got to stretch his legs and crawl around.
After at least two hours in the museum, I begged them to leave so we could see the Alamo before everyone started getting cranky. Now for the *: the museum is free, but they sell toy fire trucks with working ladders and sirens on the way out. The free museum cost me $16 for two emergency vehicles, and three Tylenol for resulting siren-headache.
We braved the wind and crossed the street to the Alamo, where Jackson was immediately unimpressed.
“I don’t want to be in here it’s dirty.”
“Well, it’s very old and…”
“The firetrucks are old. I like the fire trucks. I want chicken nuggets. Let’s leave now.”
That museum saved my sanity, because I would have thrown my own tantrum if Jack had demanded we leave the “old stinky building” after I paid so much to park. Then I bet he would have remembered the Alamo.
The next day we went to the San Antonio Zoo, which I thought was pretty cool. Jackson hated all the animals and wanted to go home. To El Paso. I could tell he was getting nervous again, unsure if we were going to live in San Antonio now, or if we were ever going to see Nana and Baba in Austin. I tried to reassure him we were just visiting, but he was obviously skeptical, and was difficult the entire excursion. When I tried to explain that we could leave, but we had to keep going through the zoo to get out, he freaked out and tried to run away, which was not a proud moment for me as I yelled and threw other zoo patrons aside while barreling my stroller through the crowd. I decided we should try and regroup with some animal crackers, and that seemed to help a little. Jackson maintained that he did not like the animals, but as we were leaving we happened upon a decorative koi pond and Jackson started to lose his mind with excitement. He was finally so happy that I got him some fish food so he could feed them, and that would remain the highlight of his trip when his Daddy asked about the zoo later. “We saw fish! I like fish!” The same fish were in our hotel lobby, so next time we’ll save the trip and loiter in the hotel instead.
The moral of the story is: everyone is different. Not all kids like lions and monkeys. Not all kids are interested in the history of the Alamo at age two. Not all nerds like Star Wars. Not all video game enthusiasts dress in elaborate costumes for conventions. Not all grown men at video game expos live in their mom’s basement. It was a very educational trip.