My brother went to law school at the University of Notre Dame (which would sound impressive, except I know about the beer pong), having turned down a full ride offered by another institution to attend his dream school (he’d tell you this himself if he weren’t busy eating his monthly student loan statements right now, or cursing me for telling you about them). I tell you this because I went to grad school at Notre Dame, too. Just not that Notre Dame. I went to the one in Maryland, the one called Notre Dame of Maryland University (what do you mean, you’ve never heard of it?), which did, in fact, give me the most absolute greatest education for which I could have hoped/paid/cried angry bitter tears because I was still working full-time during my studies, but you try telling that to people who give you the blank stare when you tell them “Notre Dame, but not Notre Dame” and make you so flustered you just end up muttering “Go Irish!” and walking away frustrated.
But back to my story, which is clearly getting more unraveled by the sentence. My uncle (and a cousin, if you’re counting) also went to ND (that ND, not that ND), which is also really awesome when people find out I’m a fan and ask me if I went there and I have to be all, “No, I went to a state school–go Rams!–but all of these other people I’m related to did! Honest!” But because of all this, all of this Irish-Catholic pride and family connections, it is David’s and my duty and honor as good parents to brainwash our children early to love the Fighting Irish, as well. What? I got David to agree to raise the girls Catholic, after all. This decision was a lot easier for him to make, even if I did have to agree in return to let him make the girls believe the Detroit Red Wings are the best hockey team on earth (hard pill to swallow, people, but compromise and all). And so, when we are able and our kind relatives swing some extra tickets our way, we head out to a game, which is what we did this weekend. For the record, we drove out Friday and returned home Sunday, for a total of 19 1/2 hours in the car. Also for the record, I am 29 weeks pregnant, was travelling against the doctor’s recommendations and with instructions to make sure there was a level three NICU nearby and to stop a lot to walk around to avoid getting a blot clot lodged somewhere and killing me dead, and we had two children under the age of five in tow (ours, of course. Who else would be crazy enough to let their kids do this in a weekend?).
Best. Idea. Ever.
No, seriously. It actually was a pretty nice trip, considering, for a few reasons:
- Our girls are awesome travelers. I couldn’t believe it. They talked or looked out the window most of the way, excited to see mountains and tunnels through mountains and rivers and old, high train bridges. They watched only a couple of short DVDs, even though I’d brought a stack. They snacked most of the way, which helped. The girls are like their parents–full bellies make happy hearts. There was only one short meltdown about twenty minutes before we stopped for lunch on the way out, and honest, I was much better-behaved after that.
- David and I both really like to drive, which is sort of nice when the driver is ready to finally hand over the steering wheel and the other person jumps at the chance to take it. Even if it does mean the driver has to endure the other superly-involved passenger warning her about speed, or egging her on to speed up already, or pointing out random cars/deer/cattle chutes/exits the driver can’t possibly be seeing, or auto-programming the radio stations on the brand new car without the primary driver knowing it, or getting bumped into while the spouse is climbing around in the back to look for a lost stuffed parrot, because when two people with control issues get married that’s just normal operating procedure. It’s all healthy, honest.
- We (can I say it?) traded in our SUV for a minivan the afternoon before we left. We weren’t planning on it, but we’d been talking about it, and I went in to our favorite salesperson at our local dealership to check out our options (common sense and an entire lack of concern about losing my pride/dignity/youth having finally lodged themselves in my brain), and we ended up driving out with a much bigger vehicle with fancy sliding doors and more cup holders than an entire peewee football team needs for practice. So, other than the fact that we are officially old parents with, like, responsibility and stuff, it made for a sweet 10-hour trip. And I’m not complaining about minivans anymore.
- Saoirse is a blast at football games. She dances to the band, cheers at mostly the right times, wants to know if we’re rooting for the boys in the yellow hats or the white (always yellow, sweetheart. Always the yellow). She was so much fun. So. much. fun.
- She’s so much fun, in fact, it was almost easy to ignore the miserable, exhausted, thrashing 2-year-old in my lap who just wanted to sleep already and why are those people yelling so loud?? I’m going to spin this into being a testament to our consistent parenting that she’s so used to her sleep schedule she doesn’t, um, exactly handle a skipped nap very well. You like that?
- Not as much gets seen or accomplished when one is largely pregnant and grappling with two children. Souvenirs aren’t purchased. Post-game mass is not attended. Sightseeing is not done. We eat, we watch a game, we tell tired children that yes, they’ll be in bed soon. Plus side to this: boy, do we go to bed a lot earlier than we would at home. Unless you’re David, who gets to go the bars with my brother while I wrestle the 2-year-old into finally settling down and whine about my sore back. Again, though, I’m spinning this into the positive. My mom was with us, too, though, and she was positively giddy about getting so much sleep. Me? Well, I had a couple of toddler feet thrust in my neck for most of the night.
- I will swear to you that South Bend has the best pizza (Rocco’s), the best breakfast (the Pancake House), and the best fans in the world, even if it does seem like our country’s entire one percent is centralized there for the games (at ND, not the Pancake House), or that could just be that we’re always so tired and hungry when we’re there our vision’s a little fuzzy. (David will tell you that the best pizza is still at Pizza John’s in Essex, in Baltimore, but don’t listen to him. It’s really in Indiana.). I’d say something about the bars and the beer, too, except a) I don’t remember them, because I’ve been pregnant the last three times I’ve been out there, and b) I’m so tired by that point a wonky Irish band in a cute Irish pub after a nice Irish game is just a bit much when there’s a comfy bed back at the hotel calling my name. Yeah, I’m cool, me and my minivan.
What I won’t tell you about is how Saoirse is terrified of bathrooms with automatic driers and flushing toilets (hello, Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes!), or that no children, or at least no children of ours, can conceivably go to bed two nights in a row two-to-three hours after their usual bedtimes and maintain their cool for the entire following week. I’m going to keep quiet about kids getting the, uh, runny poos in stadium bathrooms, or the exact amount of time a pregnant lady can travel in a car without a bathroom break, or that no one, and I mean NO ONE, ever thinks to let that pregnant lady jump ahead of them in line for the bathroom, even when it’s clear that if she doesn’t get there quickly she’s going to have a different sort of water breaking (Did I just really type that?). And I’m certainly not going to tell you that my children ate popcorn, Twizzlers, and half of a sub for dinner one night, that David has learned he can carry both of the tired girls for long distances at the same time when necessary, that when one attends a college football game to account for the amount of traffic in the town afterward, or that statues of deceased, honorable priests on a college campus can really freak a four-year-old out. Because I don’t want you to know that. And I certainly don’t want you to know I ate my weight in Cinnabon and candy corn this weekend. Actually, it’s okay if I tell you that. Just don’t tell my OB. She’s still upset about me making the trip in the first place.
But I would rather you leave this post thinking wow, what a great experience for these parents to give their children! What a wonderful tradition to start so young! That’s what I want you to think. Because really, when I look back at this, I don’t see the image of Quinn accidentally, repeatedly, kicking the back of the guy in front of us for the length of the game. I don’t see me melting down as we were stuck in traffic with exhausted, hungry children at 8:45 after the game. And I certainly don’t see Quinn falling down to smack her head on the cement in the middle of the quad (flashforwards to drunken college years, I so hope not). I see the girls “tailgating” in their jerseys with bubbles and footballs. I see me showing them the Golden Dome, and explaining how neat the college experience is. I remember their faces getting excited to see the marching band moving around the field. It was just a simple weekend. We’ve done it before with SK, and hopefully we’ll do it again with B3 and the girls sooner than later, too. But it’s one of those simple weekends that breaks up the monotony of the other weekends, that gives us something to talk about later, that gives the kids, yes, a tradition to start to follow if they choose. So it’s worth it. It’s always worth it, no matter what I’m telling you on hour eight of the journey home.
It also helps that the Irish won their game this weekend, too. Don’t forget that. Because after that drive, I don’t think Quinn would’ve been the only one crying if they’d lost.