How to Traumatize a 2-Year-Old: Our Trip to the Post Office

Periodically Helen and I get to have a “girl’s day” while Ryan takes Henry fishing. Girl’s day typically involves running errands, which may not seem as exciting as going fishing with daddy, but Helen seems to enjoy it. She likes to help me carry things and pay for things, and, I suppose it’s just nice to have mommy’s undivided attention.

I enjoy running errands with just one child, of course, because it is so much easier to get one child in and out (and in and out) of a car seat than to wrangle two children. At least theoretically. See, Helen has her own babies. Lots of them. We have a two baby limit for car trips and so her entourage varies from trip to trip. Today we took Bear and Seeping Baby. And since there were two empty car seats in the car (yes, I’ve already installed the baby’s car seat), Bear and Seeping Baby each had to be strapped in to a car seat. And unstrapped when we arrived at the library. And restrapped (“Do the yeg straps too!!!!!”) when we left the library. And unstrapped and restrapped and, well, you get the picture. I had plenty of time, and so I indulged her. I’m sure anyone watching me was either amused or bewildered by my behavior. I’m equally sure at least one childless twenty-something thought I was a complete lunatic.

Helen often “wears” her babies while we’re out.
Here she is quite literally wearing Baby Joona, one of her favorite babies.

When we arrived at the post office I convinced her to leave the babies in the car because it would just be a quick stop. I struggled with this because, of course, I don’t want to teach my daughter that it’s okay to leave babies unattended in cars. I decided not to over think it.

To satisfy her need to be a big girl I handed her a small package containing a little dress I’m sending to a friend’s baby girl. I told her that we were at the Post Office and that we would be sending the dress to Baby Emmie.

When we walked inside Helen asked, “What this place, mama?” I again explained this was the Post Office where we would send the dress to Baby Emmie. She said, “I no see Emmie.” I realized that this whole concept of sending packages through the mail was completely foreign to her. So I explained, as simply as I could, that the Post Office is where the mailman works and that we would give the package to the man at the counter and that he would give it to the mailman who would put it on a truck and drive it to Baby Emmie’s house. She seemed skeptical but became distracted by the display of cards and stamps.

When it was our turn to hand over our packages, I gave the clerk my other two packages and told Helen to turn over the dress. She clutched it tightly and glared at me. I assured her that the nice man would make sure the dress gets to Baby Emmie. She clung tighter and glared at him. He offered her a Beauty and the Beast post card in exchange for the package. (Little did he know that as the second child with a big brother he might have had better luck with a dinosaur post card or something.) She curtly said, “no,” and turned her back on him.

At this point I realized that our cajoling was going to be fruitless, and  that we were going to have to do this “the hard way.” I pried the package from her tiny fingers and handed it over. She sobbed pathetically while the man weighed and marked the package, and I paid the shipping while trying to console her. I assured her that Emmie would get the dress and promised that her mommy will take a picture of her and the dress when it gets there. I whisked her out to the car and distracted her with caring for Bear and Seeping Baby.

Who knew that learning about the U.S. Postal Service would be so traumatic?

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