Although it’s rare, every once in awhile, when the boys don’t really nap and Sophie’s in a mood, when 6pm feels very far away, when our house seems extraordinarily small, when I start feeling myself getting frustrated over the littlest of things, when I start thinking about how long 18 years really is, I drive. I load everyone up in the van with no intention of going anywhere specific, or doing anything in particular, except to drive, with all three children strapped into their carseats, unable to climb up onto anything, get into anything and hopefully, maybe, fall asleep.
There are many things wrong about this.
(1) My role as mother is to read to my children, take them on walks, provide them with finger paints, play hide-and-go-seek, push them on swings, build forts with them, produce puppet shows for them, and to tackle them and tickle them until they beg me to stop. A (good) mother, I would guess, does not strap their kids in their carseats, thinking of them not as safety devices but rather ingenious containment devices, wondering how many other seats in her house could benefit from a five-point harness system. And then think of the nannies she could hire off of patenting couches, for example, with just such a thing.
(2) This is not something a sort-of-vegetarian, recycler, former (shame-faced) cloth diaper-user does. I have no idea what the exact environmental impact is of me driving around aimlessly for two hours simply because I need a break but Earth, I’m sorry. You deserve better inhabitants than me.
(3) Gas is not cheap. Nor is the no-whip, non-fat grande pumpkin latte and three petite vanilla bean scones I bought at the drive-thru Starbucks all the way up in Kenwood, a good 25 minutes from my house.
(4) Time is invaluable to me these days. Days are meant for playing with my kids, feeding my kids and (trying) to occasionally do some laundry and run the dishwasher. Evenings are meant for bedtime routines and freelance work. So leaving my house in the middle of the afternoon for the sole purpose of achieving quiet means coming back home to a completely trashed kitchen, a pile of unfolded clean clothes, activities not done, snacks missed and a lonely dog.
This was my afternoon. The boys, who have given up their morning naps, slept for about 30 minutes after lunch before waking up screaming. I changed both their diapers and they did not stop screaming. I tried to play with them, dance with them, give them snacks, give them more milk, give them kisses—still, screaming. When they were done screaming at me they turned to each other, bopped toys on each other’s heads and, again, screamed. So much screaming. I e-mailed Andy. His response? “Drugs. Drug them. Tranquilizer dart from a distance.”
I looked at the boys. They looked at me. And screamed some more. So I scooped them up, barefoot, and took them to the van, with Sophie following me saying, “Where are we going? Where are we going?”
“Nowhere,” I said, promising her an unhealthy (a word that always prompts a smile from her) treat from a drive-thru (really, I should write a parenting book).
Two minutes into the car ride the boys were still wide awake, but calm. Happy, even. Sophie, on the other hand, dropped her princess doll and started begging, pleading me to pull over right now so I could get it for her. Two minutes later, she was asleep.
The boys stayed awake the entire time. And didn’t make a sound. Sophie got in a good nap, and I saved one of my petite scones for her, knowing the first thing she’d ask when she woke up was for her drive-thru treat. And I drove. And drove and drove and drove, sipping my latte, eating my scones, listening to NPR. And it was heavenly.
And now we’re home, and amazingly, everyone is pleasant. Even though we’re 20 minutes away from the dreaded witching hour.
I imagine many mothers handle afternoons like this differently. But if you had witnessed the screaming, the incessant screaming, you have to give me credit for something—at least when I left for the drive, I took them all with me.
“Parents are not interested in justice; they are interested in quiet.” —Bill Cosby