So I am sitting in line waiting to pick up Tall from preschool. I am one of those people (Virgo) who does not like to just sit around waiting for something, thus, I have gotten very very good at the Timing Of Carpool:
- At 12:30 PM, Tall’s school gets out
- If I arrive at 12:30, the line will already be so long that I won't be at the front until 12:42 (that means I sit for 12 long minutes, inching my car forward while the digital dashboard clock ticks off the minutes one-by-one, mocking me and my poor Time Management Skills)
- I need to get there at 12 noon ON THE DOT if I want to be the first person in line (uh, why? who cares about being first? isn't the whole point of preschool to maximize my tiny sliver of "at home alone time"?). Half an hour of wasted time, just sitting in the car—ludicrous!
- If I show up after 12:45, then I'm charged a $5 late fee daily
- If I get there at 12:15, I am "technically" early, but my car won't be at the front until 12:35 (this in-between time is the worst; believe me, I have tried every combination and computation)
- 12:44 is optimal in terms of not wasting precious time, and still being (barely) what’s considered “on time”
I can't keep up with these Stepford Mommies! They win all the Best Mother Ever trophies, and I come in last place, as usual. I’m sure they’ve also volunteered for “Room Parent” and that they make Martha Stewart cupcakes from scratch for every special occasion (no mass-produced ready-made cupcakes from Giant for them). Never a missed opportunity!
I won’t stoop that low, I think, as I gobble up some m&ms and deposit the wrapper with the others on the floor. Bliss is being the last one in the line: this means that I have not wasted even one iota of time. It is equivalent (in my mind) to walking into my favorite restaurant at 7:30 with a 7:30 reservation and the place is packed and the maitre d’ immediately seats my group at the best table with a sweeping view of the city. It is equivalent (in my son’s mind) to being ignored and unloved by Mommy.
If I pick him up last, then I’m greeted with a sad little lump of a pouty son or, if he’s feeling feisty that day, I’m met with a string of (toddler-style) profanities:
“Last again? You are a mean and bratty person, Mommy. I wanna punch you in your dumb face! I don’t like you anymore and you need to ‘pologize to me and I wanna just go home with Wyatt instead of YOU!”
So I don't have to endure idle threats of being punched in my "dumb face", I get there early the next day. As noted above, to be the leader of Carfool (yes, my new term for it), you must get there a half hour before school lets out. What a (adult-style-string-of-profanities) waste of time! But, I love my son and I want him to be happy. I am number ONE in line, and soon I will be number ONE in his heart (not Wyatt nor Wyatt’s mom). I have my bottle of Windex at the ready.
Tall’s teacher walks him out. She is shaking her head in true shock and awe: “Wow! MOV, I almost didn’t recognize you at the FRONT of the line!” Tall gets in, and I lean back to help him with his seatbelt. I'm smiling from ear-to-ear and I'm ready to see him smiling back at me—let the Lovefest begin!
“What are you doing here so early?” he snarls with all the love of someone receiving a court summons. He glares at me, sending daggers of ice through the rear-view mirror, “I was still playing! Why you innerupp what I’m doing?!”
His bewildered yet angry little face is beet red, and his arms are crossed tightly across his chest. Yes, toddlers are the masters of juggling multiple emotions simultaneously.
“Tall, that is not a nice way to talk to me! I thought you’d be happy that I was first.”
“Who told you THAT?” he scowls.
The next day, I vow (internally) to do better. I am in the middle of Carfool. No Windex this time, just a short newspaper article to get caught up on. School lets out and the assistant teacher walks Tall over to the car. She looks confused.
“Sorry, MOV, I’m used to you being at the end,” she smiles weakly (maybe she’s had enough of Tall’s bizarre mood-swings and unprovoked outbursts, too).
Tall gets in and slams the door. Oh, jeez, what have I done this time? I am starting to resent this pint-sized tyrant.
“Look, Tall," I begin, "you need to fix your attitude. I am tired of this behavior.”
Today he's giving me the silent treatment. I'm struggling to tighten his shoulder harness and he refuses to look me in the eye. I can't tell if he's mad, sad, overtired or a combination of all three.
“Tall?” I say calmly, almost in a whisper, “What is going on?”
He looks out the window, a prisoner of Carfool. Now he is exasperated with me. He's beginning to sob, large tears making their way down his hot cheeks.
“Mom, I was used to you being last,” (sob), “and I knew you were last and Mrs. Jones knew you were last,” (sob), “and everyone knew. We all liked things the way they were. Then you had to go,” (sniffle), “and change it, and now we just ... we don’t ever know how things will be with you.”
Back to my comfort zone for tomorrow. Back to my favorite spot, the one I'm good at:
(“Mom’s On-time Vehicle”)