Getting a little bit lost in most towns in America can cost a mom anywhere between 5-15 minutes. With a 2-year-old in the car, 5-15 minutes is the difference between a rousing rendition of, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and screaming inaudibly and the possible decimation of anything in the back seat.
Getting a little bit lost in L.A. reaps far worse consequences.
On the way to the park the other day, I took a wrong turn. I may have taken 2. I can’t be sure. A simple little turn down a simple little street raised the stress level in my car to a level that changed the way I parent and possibly my decision to have more children. Abe’s sweet little voice asking, “Park?” over and over again began to quiver. I could tell he was quickly losing faith in my ability to provide an adequate life for him with each and every wrong turn I took in a panicked desire to get us to the, “Sweengs.” The little quiver in his voice turned to a shout. He started screaming, “Stuck! I’m stuck!”
“Yes, Abe,” I said calmly, “you are stuck in your seat so that you can be safe in the car.”
He then begged. “Snack?! Snack? Snack?!?!” Did I mention I had a friend with me in the car? She reached back and handed Abe a snack, which he quickly refused. So now, not only did my stress level rise with Abe’s dissatisfaction, it rose as I began judging myself on behalf of my friend (who was not judging me) about what a terrible mother I am that my child has the patience of an old, angry, senile goat.
The more frantic I got, the harder it became to focus on where I was going and where on God’s green Earth this damn park was hiding. The chanting from the back seat got louder and louder until…the whining started.
And if you know the whining, you know it’s worse than the shouting. It stretches out your ear drum Looney Tunes style. It makes your eyes squinty and your teeth clench. Abe has a special way of whining that also makes time stand still, which is a nice feature.
“Abe, stop whining. Just stop it.”
This always works, amiright? The whining continued. I ignored it. I found my bearings and got us back on track. We were headed in the right direction and my dear-in-the-headlights friend politely and lovingly pretended like we weren’t trapped in a metal box of hell.
Then the whining got louder and took on a cadence. A beat.
“Abe, this is ENOUGH. Mommy is taking you to the PARK right now. You should be GRATEFUL and stop CRYING.”
Again, this is mother of the year kind of behavior.
The crying continued, escalated, and even took on a sort of life of it’s own hopping back and forth between whining, crying, and a kind of sheep sound.
“Abraham. Stop it. You need to stop crying, this is ridiculous.”
That worked. He stopped.
My nerves got so fried between traffic and Abe that I reached a new level of greatness with these next few lines.
“Abe, if you don’t stop crying then the park is going to cry and then you can’t play in the park because it will be too busy crying.” (Anytime I start a sentence with, “If you don’t stop…” it usually indicates I’ve run out of ideas to solve the current problem and resigned myself to cliche parenting phrases.)
Abe continued crying, which I know shocks you. Then this happened…
“Abe, we are on our way to the PARK. And we are almost THERE. If you look out the window you can SEE it. A PARK. WITH KIDS. Mommy is taking you there to PLAY. FOR YOU. NOT FOR MOMMY. FOR ABE. WE ARE GOING TO GO TO THE PARK TOGETHER AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A GREAT TIME NOW STOP CRYING.”
Guess what Abe said as we pulled into the park?
“Oooo! Mommy, look! Truck!”