Monday, May 16, 2011

Riding in Cars with Toddlers

A helpful tip for those of you thinking about learning to drive standard: don’t bring your child. And if you do, bring some mother fucking milk.

This week, I had the lovely experience of doing just that—learning to drive stick shift with my toddler in the backseat and no.freaking.milk. to give her when she screamed and cried for it. For those of you who know how to drive standard, I’m sure you agree that it’s pretty nerve-wracking in the beginning. And I’m sure you would agree that your nerves will get a lot more wracked, strung out, fried and then shoot themselves when someone screeches in your ear for some milk. I have a hard enough time keeping my temper in check on a normal day in an automatic car. You can imagine how much harder it is to do when I’m also trying to figure out what gear I’m supposed to be in or concentrate on not stalling the car for the seventeenth time in ten seconds.

I have to say that Dawson was pretty amazing throughout all it. He managed to be a good teacher, stay calm while the baby flipped her sh*t and stay calm while I flipped my sh*t. That is talent, people. I guess I also need to give the baby credit for being smart enough to know what karma is and to use it against me. The first day we went out, she happily sat in the back bouncing her feet up and down with a dopey smile on her face. She definitely thought we were going on some big, fun family adventure. And we definitely played along. After half an hour, her smile faded into a confused but still hopeful frown until she eventually fell asleep. That’s where things got vengeful. I thought I was in clear, that all my worrying about bringing her along being the worst idea ever was for nothing. In reality, she was biding her time until I felt ready enough to leave the parking lot and drive on the road. Of course, that was the moment she chose to wake up and scream so loud that all the windows shattered and blood started to trickle out from my ears. Needless to say, that was the end of the driving lesson.

The three of us went out again today. Why did we take Thumper with us again? Because if we waited for a time when we wouldn't have to take her, it would never happen. We’ve already had a standard car for a year and a half and I’m only learning to drive it now (we also have an automatic, so it’s not like I’ve been car-less that whole time). Since we learned our lesson the first time, we decided to break the driving session up with some time at the park. Unfortunately, this did not deter Thumper from screaming and only increased her apparent need for milk. That made for a fun trip. Because I didn’t have enough to think about, what with the breaking and clutching and gear-shifting and it all needing to happen at the same time. Oh no, I also had to curse myself for not bringing milk and wonder how the hell to shut her up and also remind myself to rename her from Thumper to Shreeky, like that chick from The Care Bears. The following is an exact quote from the noise going on in my head:

What gear am I in? I think the car is about to fall apart because I keep riding the clutch. What does riding the clutch mean? Okay, third gear. Did I do it? I did it! That was the best gear shift ever! Okay fourth gear... Worst gear shift ever. Also, worst noise ever. THUMPER BE QUIET! No that screaming is the worst noise ever. Shit, shit, shit, stop stalling! No Thumper, Mommy can’t – shhh. SHHHHH! There is NO MILK! Mommy is trying to—Rolling, oh God, we’re rolling backwards and OHMYGOSHSTOPSCREAMINGORISWEARTOGOD—

And then my head exploded. And I died.

Alright that last part may have been exaggerated. The point is I couldn’t stop thinking about things when all I wanted, and needed, was to stop thinking about things and just drive, dammit. Luckily Dawson offered to take Thumper home for dinner so I could practise solo. Now that was amazing. Scary, yes, but more so amazing and wonderful and quiet and it allowed me to actually concentrate on what I was doing. It also let me concentrate on my other pet peeves for learning to drive standard: stop lights and cars that pull up too close behind you on a hill.

Stop lights are aggravating because you just can’t win. They are either going to turn green and then you stall ten times, or they take forever to turn green and all the while your heart is pounding so hard your whole body is throbbing. And the longer it takes to change, the more the turn signal feels like it’s mocking you and the more cars pull up around you to stare and judge and laugh like evil little clowns. The torture of it all almost makes you wish you were at home listening to your toddler scream about beverages. Almost. Speaking of evil little clowns, let’s talk about the people who pull up right behind you on a hill. I really enjoy how enraged they get when you start rolling back or stall or just generally take some time to get your shit together. Um, I’m the one who is learning to drive here. Aren’t you the one who has been driving FOREVER and should know not to park on top my back bumper? It makes me really angry when it’s an adult because I’m like, How long have you been driving? You should know better! And it makes me really angry when it’s a young person because I’m like, Didn’t you just finish driving lessons? You should know better! Don’t get mad at me for not knowing how to drive if you also do not know how to drive.

So children, what did we learn today in Mommyland? Whether it’s full of milk, juice or something stronger to knock the kids out, always bring a sippy cup with you in the car. And stop lights are bad for your health. And if you see me on the road, you had better keep a safe distance away or I will roll back on purpose to teach you a lesson.  


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