There is no feeling so helpless than that of being stuck driving in a car with a crying child.
Except that of being stuck driving in a car with 2 crying children.
The drive always starts off innocently enough. The 3-year-old climbs obediently into her car seat, baggie of goldfish snacks in hand. She is surrounded by plenty of fodder for the ride: books, toys and a great view out the window. The 3 month old sits contently in her throne, barely able to keep her eyes open. There is the slight promise of a nap as you turn the key and the engine fires up.
You flip on the radio, and soon find a song you love. The tune is catchy, and your head bobs to the beat. After a minute, the 3-year-old pipes up. "I don't yike this song Mommy. Change it." It is a demand, not a request. You pretend not to hear, and focus more intently on the radio. You hardly ever get to ride in the car by yourself anymore, you reason. You should at least get to listen to the music you like if you can't be alone. "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! I don't YIKE this SONG." Her opinion is belligerent, and before your blood pressure rises, you turn off the radio.
It is around this time you hear the 3-month-old begin to stir. At first, she throws out a few cute little coos and gurgles. You smile contentedly, admiring how amazingly cute your child is. Slowly, the coos become less cute and more agitated. Her voice raises until the sounds coming from her seat are urgent and hostile, so you decide to enlist the help of Gumby Arms.
The baby's seat is directly behind you, so as you consciously keep your eyes on the road, you arch your spine and reach your Gumby Arm as far back and around as it can reach. Fingers search and find a pacifier, but just slightly out of grasping range. You dig your heels in to gain another inch, and just before your shoulder dislocates, you victoriously clutch the silicone godsend. In another feat of flexible genius, you find your baby's mouth, and stick the pacifier in. Your body returns to the seat, mentally patting itself on the back for its amazing skills. Seconds later, you hear the familiar "pphthbbbb," followed by the muted thud of the pacifier falling out of reach into the depths of the carseat.
Immediately the baby starts to whimper.
Pacifier Retrieval Mission: Fail.
Your eyes dart to the road, and your heart sinks as you realize you are at least 20 minutes from your destination. Something in the back of your mind tells you that this may be the longest 20 minutes of your life.
As you are calculating the estimated time of arrival, the 3 year old observes there is still quite a distance to go. To confirm this, she asks, "Mommy are we there yet?"
You answer honestly, "No, honey, we are not there yet."
The baby's whimper is slowly building.
"Are we there yet now?" the 3 year old inquires, wondering if in the 5 seconds that have past since she last asked you could have possibly arrived.
It is hard to hear your answer, as the building baby whimper has become a definitive baby cry. She has worked herself up so much, the cry sounds like a bleating sheep. "Ahhhh Ahhhh Ahhhh Ahhhh."
Taking matters into her own hands, as it has become obvious to her that you have no idea what you are doing, the 3 year old gently and delicately attempts to comfort her little sister. "NO BABY! STOP CRYING! STOP STOP STOP STOP CRYING!" The baby cries louder in response. The 3-year-old becomes more adamant. The "STOP" and the "AHHH" take turns pounding a beat on the headache being born in your brain.
15 minutes to go.
You find that you were somehow uninformed that today is Drive As Slow As You Can And Take In The Scenery Day. Had you known, perhaps you would have avoiding this route. Or this destination. Or driving ever again in general. The boat-sized Buick in front of you cruises at a cool 10-miles under the speed limit. It is a wonder that anyone is actually driving the car, as no head is visible above the headrest. 15-miles under the speed limit, slightly swerving.
Your hands are shaking now. Your left eye starts to twitch.
And it becomes a real possibility you may never arrive, leaving you to drive forever behind the slowest car in the world to the soundtrack of 2 unhappy children.
Have mercy on me.
Since she is having no luck comforting her sister, the 3-year-old turns her attention back to road markers. "Are we there yet?"
Your hands grip the wheel as you gather every ounce of patience you still own. "Is the car still moving?"
"Then, no, we are not there yet."
You are close to shouting now, to override the wailing from the 3 month old. You turn the radio on again, hoping to find soothing music. Protests begin from the 3 year old, who apparently has a very distinct music preference. You push the volume up several notches. This does not help.
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I dropped my goldfish. I want another book. Are we there yet NOW?" She begins to cry dramatically at the injustice of her life: no answers, lost goldfish, and a lack of good literature. Her world is crumbling bit by bit.
Much like your sanity.
Much like your sanity.
You start to laugh. A maniacal giggle. In these situations you have to keep a sense of humor, right? Or you know that if you don't laugh you'll probably cry.
It's amazing you have kept the car on the road. You are certain that anyone who looks at the car will see visible sound waves emanating through the windows. You are not sure if your hearing will ever be the same again. Your brain may or may not actually explode.
AND FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SACRED AND HOLY, NO WE ARE NOT THERE YET.
Ahead, there is a beautiful sight: the last turn before your destination. You focus on that one point, and count the milliseconds between bleats and questions, knowing YOU. ARE. ALMOST. THERE.
Labor was not this intensive.
In one hurried movement, you park the car, unbuckle your seat belt, throw open the door and subsequently pull your groin muscle. Could have done without that. Limping, you yank open the back door to take out the baby so you can check her over.
She is asleep.
With a weary glance, you see the 3-year-old smiling. She is chewing on orange mutilated goldfish bodies.
"I found my fishies."
With hands on your knees, you bend at the waist. Your brain has been deprived of oxygen for a solid seven minutes, and you try to replace some by sending blood to your head. A large garbage truck passes you, but you can barely hear it. You actually cannot hear anything except the ringing in your ears.
With a sigh, you extract your offspring from the car, and make your way into the store. You feel the 3-year-old put her soft little hand in yours. It warms your heart and you believe that this simple act of love can overcome even the most difficult of experiences. You look down to gaze upon all of her cuteness and she looks up at you with big blue eyes.
"Can we go home now?"
I need to invest in earmuffs.
Stephanie Anderson is a West Chester, PA mom. This post was adopted from her blog, Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom.