Being a parent for the past 12 years has given me a whole new perspective on just about everything I ever believed or thought about life in general. All the things I said I’d never do or be when I had kids… I’ve already done or said a dozen times over. It’s as if, once you give birth, some great mystery slowly begins to reveal itself. Things that once made no sense whatsoever, now seem crystal clear… like the kind of wisdom King Solomon should have written about in the Bible.
Let’s take my grandmother for example. I remember riding in the car with her as a teenager with the radio blaring. It never failed! At some point during the drive, she would shout out of frustration, “Turn that thing down! I can’t see!” To which, my girlfriends and I would laugh heartily from the back seat, and whisper behind her back about the early on-set case of dementia she was obviously suffering from. After all, what could the volume of the radio have to do with her incapacity to see? Now… I get it!
One of the things that fascinates me most about the car is how much information is shared there, specifically on the way to school and the way home! If I’m honest, nearly everything I know about my daughter’s friends, her fears, her dreams, her favorite books, her likes and dislikes… have all been shared from the passenger seat of my car. I feel certain that, if she killed someone on the soccer field today, she’d tell me where the body was buried… on the way home.
I can’t figure out if it’s because she has no access to the internet in the car yet, or maybe she feels like it’s a hostage situation, and she’s being forced to talk. Who knows? I guess, now that I think about it, this is where I confess or inadvertently tell her all of my dirty little secrets. Santa… yep. Tooth Fairy… yep. Easter Bunny… you know the answer. Somehow everything comes out easier in the confines of a car, when you can drop a bomb of information on someone without making eye contact if you don’t want to. Whatever it is… these are the moments I’ve come to cherish.
Believe me though… it didn’t start out this way! I know this will make me sound like Joan Crawford from the movie “Mommie Dearest”, but I used to despise driving my daughter anywhere! I hate to admit something so horrible, but it’s true. When she was too young to ride facing forward, all she did was scream and cry incessantly from the time I put her in her car seat until we reached at our destination. She was FINE as long as someone was sitting back there with her, but God help me if I had to fly solo for some reason and had no one to throw in the back seat with her.
True story… one morning she actually cried so hard that she began projectile vomiting into the back window of the car. As if that weren’t disgusting enough, she then started CHOKING on it! In a flash, I put on my “supermom” cape, swerved into the turn lane, and saved the day. People were whizzing by me on both sides of Dickerson Road while I stand there pounding my 3 month-old infant on the back. “Don’t mind us!”
I couldn’t wait for her to get big enough to talk! I had these visions of sipping my Starbucks, while looking at her in the rearview mirror and conversing about the events of our day. Sadly, that’s not exactly the way things went down. When she finally DID learn to talk, that’s ALL she did. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise! As a neophyte, no one bothered to tell me that the “listening” comes much later! Sometimes it was so obnoxious I couldn’t even think.
When my daughter was younger, I took a break from news to be the Spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. EVERY SINGLE TIME we had a major crime or statewide crisis that required my attention, I would be driving down the road unable to hear over her incessant chatter from the back seat. No matter how much I begged and pleaded with her to be quiet for just five minutes while mommy takes an IMPORTANT call, she couldn’t do it.
We’d be in the middle of activating a statewide AMBER Alert, and I couldn’t even get an accurate description of the missing kid because mine wouldn’t shut up! This is no joke. One night, I was doing a phone interview with Nancy Grace on the drive home. I had to pull the car over, get out, and lock the doors to prevent the viewers of CNN from hearing whatever Dalton had to say that night. It was maddening!
I finally got over it all one day, when we were driving to school in a blinding snow storm. Don’t even ask me why school wasn’t cancelled, but it wasn’t. Traffic was so bad on the main roads that I decided to take a “long cut” through the country, where it wasn’t so congested. Turns out, there’s a REASON that road was empty. It was a solid sheet of ice.
The few other cars that dared to go back there were creeping along at about two miles an hour. Finally, we reached this line of cars just sitting still. As we inched towards the front of the line, I finally realized what was going on. There was a hairpin turn on a 45 degree slope that drivers were trying to navigate their way down one by one. About 1 out of every 3 wound up making it down without flying off into a ditch. It was sheer lunacy to even attempt it, but there was no other choice. There was no way to turn around, and we were in the middle of nowhere.
Basically, drivers would just wait their turn, and when you reached the front of the line… it was your responsibility to wait and see if the car in front of you wrecked or made it to the bottom. Despite being on the verge of what felt like a disaster, my daughter was just chatting away in the back seat as if nothing in the world was going on. I humored her until it was my turn at bat, and then I remember screaming, “Dalton! I need you to say absolutely nothing. In fact, if you need to say something… PRAY.” She paused for about two seconds, probably in shock because I had just lost it. Then she said with the sweetest little voice ever, “Which one, mama? The eating prayer or the sleeping prayer?” That’s the moment I finally realize that all that nothing we talk about every day… means a lot.