The other day, as I was buckling my seatbelt in the supermarket parking lot, I noticed a family getting into the car parked in the space in front of me. They only had one or two bags, and as they approached the car, the mom clicked the button to unlock the car and slide the door open. She climbed into the driver seat and the two tweenage children with her went in through the open door. She turned on the ignition as the door slid shut, and before it was closed, she backed out of the space. In a matter of seconds, she was in drive and on her way to her next destination.
I stopped what I was doing and just watched her in amazement. I was staring at her empty space long after she was gone. “She just got in the car,” I thought to myself. “She didn’t even have to open the door,” I said to no one in particular. “She just drove off, in her car,” I muttered in disbelief.
Mind you, I have four kids under six years old. For the last six years, getting in the car has been an epic performance. A circus act. A carefully planned and produced magic show. Getting in the car is the bane of my existence. And here, this mother, just flaunting it—rubbing it in my face. She didn’t wrestle not one screaming kid into the car. She didn’t buckle four carseats with five-point harnesses, and then go back and rebuckle the two who know how to unbuckle themselves while she was buckling the other two. She didn’t scream, cry, pray, fight, threaten, cry—oh wait, I already said cry (okay, sometimes I cry twice). She didn’t dodge traffic to return the huge shopping cart with all the extra seats, or load smashed groceries in the car, or try to refold the sun visor that looks like it was ripped to shreds by wild animals.
As I stared at her empty space (seriously, I stared a long time), I thought how her getting into the car at home probably wasn’t a big deal either. She probably told the kids, “We’re going to the store,” and the children magically appeared in the car, buckled, with shoes on, and not needing last-minute diaper changes. Maybe she said, “Hmm…I think I’ll drive somewhere,” and she then proceeded to get into her car, without preparing bottles and putting them on ice, and checking the bag for extra pairs of underwear and shorts and diapers, and wipes, and a bag of animal crackers (and then locating anything on that list that happened to be missing). She went out to her garage, and there wasn’t a six year old army-crawling underneath her car, and there wasn’t a three year old climbing in the garbage. She didn’t referee any fights about which seat anyone was going to sit in while forcefully restraining children. She didn’t load bags of stuff into the car, and take armfuls of toys and trash out of the car, and then sit down and strap herself in and realize she didn’t have her keys. When she turned the ignition, her hair wasn’t stuck to her sweat-slick face. She probably hasn’t said, “Just forget it,” and unload the car again while still in the garage because it wasn’t worth the hassle to leave. It’s probably been a long time since she pulled up to where she was going, found more than one child asleep in the car, and just kept going past her destination to return home.
I assume she’s been there before and come out on the other side. I believe that one day, that carefree driver will be me. But it still felt like she was taunting me, as if her forethought to have a manageable amount of children with a reasonable number of years between them made her superior to me. I can only hope that one day while I’m managing my boy band, or when all my kids are fighting over who can best lavish me with gifts (because, yeah, those two things are going to happen), that I will look back on this time in life and smile.
Because I LOVE my kids. But getting them in the car is a horror second only to the blood-curdling terror that is bath time.