February 13, 2004

Be Careful What You Wish For

Brace yourselves, as I am sure this personal revelation will come as a shock: I lack patience. It's true. I yell at the microwave to hurry up, and I'm one of those drivers who will cuss you six ways from Sunday if you haven't actually anticpated when the traffic light will turn green and responded accordingly (I don't honk, though, my momma did teach me SOME manners). I'm short-tempered, short-fused, and short on forebearance.

In my past moments of introspection, I have often wished to have more patience and the ability to calm down and appreciate the days as they come. Well, I am an idiot. I have been granted that wish, only to discover that I must have wished upon the Monkey's Paw, because the fulfillment of this wish is going to kill me.

My toddler has apparently been divinely (or otherwise) appointed to teach me patience. How? With conversations like this one, occurring during our 30 minute commute:

Truck in front of us throws big rock at windshield. I see large black object hurtling toward us and give a loud, startled yelp as it connects sharply with the glass in front of my face.

The Boy: What happened?

: That truck threw a rock at the windshield. It made a loud noise and startled mommy.

The Boy: Oh. (pause) What happened?

Me: Sometimes big rocks can hit the windshield and make loud noises. It can be kind of startling.

The Boy: Mommy, what happened?

Me: (trying to pass offending truck, annoyed that rock has hit windshield of car that we've only made one payment on, and still full of adrenaline from the sudden impact and noise) That big dumb truck threw a big dumb rock at us. It made a loud noise.

The Boy:
What happned?

Me: (beginning to wonder if boy has hearing problem) That. Big. Truck. Hit. Us. With. A. Rock. I. Don't. Like. That. Truck.

Repeat seventeen variations of this, at approximately two per minute, until exit ramp is in sight.

The Boy: What happened, Mommy?

Me: (At this point, we're almost home, my nerves are frayed, the traffic sucks, and I'm having those mom flashes, you know, the ones that say "Maybe he's learning disabled or has some sort of cognitive disability.") Sweetie, it was a rock, remember? It hit the windshield and the big noise scared me for a minute. Okay?

The Boy: Oh, Otay.

I breathe sigh of relief, until

The Boy: What happened?

Me: Rock. Car. Hit. Noise. Eeek!

The Boy: Mommy, wha-

Me: Look! Look! There's the driveway! There's Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Come get your son out of the car, daddy!

Ignore hublet's puzzled looks as I slam car into park, kill ignition, grab purse, coffee mug, boy's backpack and stuffed animals and bolt into the house.

Then I take a two mile run. Small steps, right? Small steps.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at February 13, 2004 10:57 AM

I used to go through this with my kid. I think they repeat the question because they don't understand the answer. From their point of view, they ask "What happened," and you answer "Womble yellow walrus." Start again. Crazy.

Posted by: Jack at February 13, 2004 11:48 AM

That's kids, bless their little souls. And when did Daddy ask "What happened?" :)

Posted by: Roberta at February 13, 2004 11:53 AM

The proper response to situations such as this is to pick up the phone and thank your mother for being such a saint! ;-)

Posted by: LittleA at February 13, 2004 01:27 PM

Start trying the "Just a minute, sweetie. Mommy has to drive right now. We'll talk about it when we get home." Then change the subject.

I have to admit, my daughter has learned a few words that I wish she didn't know. Now I do an immitation of that dog character from the old cartoon (can't remember his name right off) who, to simulate cussing, goes, "Ratzen, fratzen, frommin, ....". My daughter thinks it's hilarious, and she's now learning more bad words.

But I still wish I had a working model of dash-mounted phasers and photon-torpedoes...

Posted by: Claire at February 13, 2004 02:38 PM

Strictly speaking, the truck threw a rock up and forward (away from you) and you drove into it. So you did it, not the truck. The child was correct in not accepting your projection.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at February 13, 2004 03:58 PM

"Oh, Otay."

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Those memories, of his sweet little, 'Oh, otay' will make it all alright in the end. OMG, 'oh, otay'...that's so precious.

Posted by: Academy Girl at February 13, 2004 09:36 PM

Claire: "Start trying the 'Just a minute, sweetie. Mommy has to drive right now. We'll talk about it when we get home.' Then change the subject."

Exactly. It's mildly possible that he's playing a funny game with you, but it's one you need to short-circuit because it is hard to drive when you're distracted.

Mine was a little older when we passed a Methodist church (logo: cross with tongues of fire) and we had this conversation: "Is that a fire station?" "No, it's a church." "Why does it have fire on its sign?" "[not wanting to explain the Pentecost to a four-year-old while driving in rush-hour traffic] That's just what they have on their sign." Pause. "Is it hot in there?"

Posted by: Laura at February 14, 2004 10:31 AM

Oh, and I forgot - when she was six, her dad was bringing her home from afterschool care and she asked, "Daddy? Have you and Mommy ever sexed?" He had difficulty staying in the roadway.

Posted by: Laura at February 14, 2004 10:38 AM

Ron, why are you privileging the reference frame that is at rest with respect to the center of the earth? There is no good reason for this---the reference frame of the truck or of the car---or of an observer on Enceladus---are equally valid.

Did it actually damage the windshield, BAW?

Posted by: Angie Schultz at February 14, 2004 01:33 PM

Angie, the center of the earth is moving west at 600 mph (times the cosine of the latitude). I take the frame of an objective observer, the roadside bystander. Truck goes by, followed by rock, followed by BAW gaining on it.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at February 14, 2004 01:40 PM

1000 mph times cosine of latitude (24000 mi in 24 hr). Times the cosine is about 600 mph.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at February 14, 2004 01:42 PM

boy, i can't wait for my boy to figure out the talking thing. got awhile to wait, though...

Posted by: shane at February 15, 2004 11:32 PM

Angie -

Car was unscathed, thank goodness. My ire would have been great indeed if the rock's impact (insert physics lesson here--did I mention I'm happy to have majored in the humanities) had hurt my spanky new precious.

Posted by: BAW at February 16, 2004 01:12 PM

I read somewhere that when toddlers ask about something repeatedly, they don't really mean -- in this case -- "What happened?," they mean something like, "Why did it happen? Because it scared me and I don't want it to happen again."

So I change the subject.

Posted by: Lex at February 18, 2004 12:19 PM