The rest of the family car on the train was silent. Nobody said a word.
My son, however, screamed as if someone had stuck a knife in his back.
All our fellow passengers stared at me: What’s she going to do now?
That “she” was me, the mother of this screaming, kicking and dead-tired bundle of boy, whom I had awoken five minutes ago (bloody rookie error no. 1) after we had just missed the 4:30 train (rookie error no. 2 – the heat must have gotten to my brain).
And so we found ourselves yesterday, on a Friday at 5 p.m. on the InterCity train from Bern to Zurich (a busy stretch between two of Switzerland’s biggest cities), wedged between bikes, prams and crowds of people, all of whom and which, by definition, had no business being in this so-called family car.
***A quick warning: This text may have a contraceptive effect. Keep reading at your own risk!***
My daughter was dangerously doing gymnastics on the stroller and was determined to spend the journey on the slide on the upper level of the train. What she wanted, she must have – immediately – or else…. I didn’t want to risk saying no.
Her tears from the 20-minute-long tantrum from the swimming pool to the train station had only just dried (I, cruel mother that I am, had dared to make her take off her wet bathing suit), and her good mood was hanging by a thread – in this case the band holding her pacifier.
But her brother in the double stroller. He. Didn’t. Want. To. Get. Out. I took a deep breath and appealed to him in my calmest Supermom voice: “We can’t stay here, you know. There’s not enough space.” My argument fell on the deafest of ears and accomplished nothing except to prompt a father holding a newborn (!) baby on his chest to take pity and offer me his seat.
Next attempt, not quite so compatible with Jesper Juul-style parenting: Bribery
Would you like a sip of cola? Nooooooo!
Some crisps? Waaaaah!
A slap? (I didn’t really say this last one.)
During these negotiations, the entire car, as I mentioned, was completely silent. Nobody wanted to miss seeing how the sweaty mother of two would find her way out of this fix. I resorted to a good old threat:
“If you don’t come with us, we’ll just have to go alone. 3….2….”
I followed through and went – with my daughter on my hip and backpack on my back – in the only direction that wasn’t packed with bikes: Through a cordon of staring passenger eyes towards the sliding doors. I then stood there and waited for my son to capitulate.
Which, of course, didn’t happen.
So I trudged my way back, not making any friends with my heaving backpack or my reply to one especially disapproving pair of eyes: “Sorry, I’m just trying to parent my children here.”
Yup, really great job you’re doing there, Any Working Mom.
The solution ended up being nothing for pacifists. I pulled my furious little angel roughly out of the stroller and dragged him with my free hand (the other one was still holding my daughter) through the aisle, up the stairs and into the play area. Jesper Juul and his parenting guru buddies would have been gasping.
As you might expect, I received was no applause from the rows of commuters.
Once we made it to the upper level, my son and I looked at each other eye to eye, he got to tell me how dumb I am, we hugged, and he got my iPhone.
Peace and quiet. My pulse gradually slowed down to the rhythm of the train as it clattered along the tracks…
…until my daughter looked up from the slide, saw the digital tranquillizer her brother had gotten and WANTED IT. RIGHT. NOW.
Back to start.
To everyone who had the pleasure of travelling from Bern to Zurich with me and my two darling children: Sorry! #epicdoubletoddlermeltdown
— Andrea Jansen (@jansenreistrum) May 27th 2016
Thanks in advance for your parental advice, encouraging pats on the back or stories of your own experiences in the comments below!
I apologize to my fellow passengers for the noise and any bruises caused by my backpack.
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