There is no worse place to be at rush hour than the exit ramp of the Mass Turnpike (exit 18, if you must know) waiting to get onto Memorial Drive. If you live in this area and you ever use the Mass Pike, or I-90, you know the exit I am talking about. You know how it feels when you are being good and waiting in the right lane as you INCH forward over the course of twenty minutes to cover a quarter mile. You know the righteous FURY of seeing jerk-off after jerk-off cut into the line at the last possible second, SLOWING THE WHOLE THING DOWN FOR ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE WHO GOT IN LINE. This moment, readers, is the moment of the last 5K interval in a really hard track (more on that tomorrow). You are aware of your entire body and you want to explode, but you can’t. because the Moana soundtrack is playing and your toddler is in the car. No swearing. You limit yourself to one, short, frustrated honk (and frankly, that’s one pointless honk too many - shame on me). Okay, two pointless honks. It was bad.
Gripes pile on and then they pile on more. ‘Tis the season of broken furnaces, leaky roofs, and other problems that urgently need to get fixed before it snows (did you know that Winter Is Coming?). ‘Tis the season of sniffles that we hope are innocuous, and notices appearing on doors of day care classrooms announcing a case of strep, conjunctivitis, or the dreaded Hand, Foot and Mouth. ‘Tis the season of realizing you better do something about your 10-year-old Honda Civic with shitty tires that won’t stay inflated, because now you live on a steep hill and you no longer have a garage. ‘Tis the season of heavy traffic (and yes, ‘tis a season that lasts fully from September to July, but I’m grousing here).
It’s easy, understandable, and even cathartically worthwhile to gripe about stuff in November. Lots of people are already getting wound up about the holidays and what they portend. Everything costs a buttload of money, from the problems I mentioned above to the actual celebration of the holidays themselves.
So let me draw your attention for a moment (and mine, while we’re at it) to the area of my life that, as of the last 48 hours, is going fabulous: my three-year-old. That’s right, the author of the chaos, the reason I even have to own a house and a car to begin with, the bringer of the germs, the source of all the most costly aspects of life right now. She is killing it. The fact that she is killing it, moreover, makes the rest of my problems seem solvable. I don’t really have room in my head to think about how much it’s going to cost to get the roof repaired when I beam with pride at everything she’s knocked out of the park recently.
This came crashing in on me this morning on that damn exit ramp. We had been in the car, in traffic, for nearly an hour. That meant Ros had been her carseat (which she once hated) for a total of nearly 90 minutes so far that morning. Unlike her fuming mother struggling to contain all the frustration at the inconsiderate drivers (who are benefiting from their inconsideration!!!), she had sat quietly in the backseat, offering a bemused, “Mommy, how are you feeling?” every so often. And she had submitted to all this driving for the sake of a hospital visit. There was literally no upside for her. She had gotten her foot X-Rayed, and I had had to stay out of the room. She had waited in a waiting room and then seen a nurse and a doctor, been poked and prodded, then waited while Mommy talked to the doctor and didn’t pay any attention to her. If she complained, I don’t remember it. Not only that, but less than 18 hours prior, she had been dragged along on a similar quest - this time to the used car dealership - involving roughly 90 minutes of driving, not including the test drive she came along for. She had read Consumer Reports while we waited to hear about an APR, and for the price of a bag of chips from the vending machine, she happily drew on post-it notes rather than complain.
Six months ago, a success of this magnitude on just ONE occasion could not even have been considered, let alone two days in a row. Tear-free car rides, practically devoid of whining? Willing use of the potty at the car dealership? Vanishingly small amount of resistance when Mom says it’s time to go?
Being an adult is hard, and being a toddler has got to be hard, too. The realization that my 3-year-old was actually doing a better job coping with a frustrating situation than I was felt first embarrassing and then…transcendent. If we can tolerate waiting on an exit ramp for seemingly longer than we’ve been waiting for the last season of Game of Thrones to come out, we can probably tolerate anything. Or at least Ros can. And if she can, then I can handle the rest.