Today on the southbound 405 at approximately 3:15 in the afternoon, my mothering went down in flames.
My two daughters just spent the weekend with Grammy and Grampy at a resort in Palm Desert, while Jeff and I stayed at Grammy and Grampy's house in Newport Beach. It was heaven all around. But then on Sunday afternoon, when we had been reunited, it was the opposite.
Liv and I set off from the beach house together in our family's oldest car, which is without air conditioning. A stop at the produce market, and we were back in the car, sweating, with the windows down at 70 mph. Livie starts to scream, "I can't hear the music with the windows down!" And I start to yell back, "I can't roll the windows up! It's too hot!" Five minutes into this illogical exchange with my three year old, and I am screaming not to be heard over the wind, but simply because I am furious that she will not accept the situation and chill out.
"Do you want to listen to music or do you want Mommy to suffocate????"
One mile later, as I stand on the shoulder of the ramp where I have pulled the car over two exits too early because I literally cannot spend another second in that boiling car with that frothing child another minute, something occurs to me. Upon reentering the atmosphere of our family, some friction may occur. And in this case, the reentry was so abrupt, we went up in flames.
It also occurred to me hours later that back on the freeway, Livie and I were experiencing the exact same emotion. We were both confronted with a situation that we greatly disliked and could not control. Livie had only an hour earlier been cruising in the back of Grammy's leather-upholstered Mercedes Benz, listening to tunes and sipping water from her own cup holder. I was chilling with my hubster on Grammy's luxury patio, listening to music and smelling salty sea air. But suddenly, we both find ourselves smelling old Volkswagen and having our other senses blasted with hot air and automobile noise. No wonder we were both ticked off.
This freeway incident is somewhat discouraging to me, because one would think that after a relaxing weekend I would have more patience with my child and an adverse situation, but I often find the opposite is true.
Let's back up a minute, shall we. Friday after dropping the kids off, I had the whole day to myself and spent it sewing, riding a bike, reading a magazine, swimming in the bay, watching Harry Potter, taking a bubble bath, and then meeting my husband for happy hour and a movie. Did I forget to mention I got to get dressed and blow dry my hair ALL BY MYSELF. After the movie we got chocolate cake at a coffee house and then lay on the beach and looked at stars. And I haven't even gotten to the part where I had a day and a half after that with just my husband.
"What has gotten into you," my husband said to me from the beach blanket. "It's like you've been unleashed!" He forgets how much fun I am when I'm not busy mothering (don't take that the wrong way. I love mothering. No, really.)
But is it any wonder that such self indulgence would make me shocked to find frothy three year old in my back seat? My goodness, over the weekend I had almost forgotten what a tantrum sounded like. And meantime, she's been in swimming pool and breakfast buffet heaven. Why should she be happy to be running hot errands with me?
What's the lesson here? No fun for mommy because it ill-equips me for real life? No grandparents' sponsored vacation for the kids? I really hope not. If presented with the opportunity, I would say yes and cram in all kinds of fun all over again. But I will also be aware when the kids come home: There may be some bumps upon reentry, so buckle up.