The bumper sticker said “It’s 4:00. The children are alive. My work here is done.”
I have never forgotten that bit of vehicle wisdom. My approach to motherhood is based on that — perhaps my approach to life. She’s such an easy kid, this joy of my being . . . all I have to do is keep her alive. Despite her best efforts.
Easter Sunday afternoon. One of the first nice days of a soggy spring. My 14-year-old daughter is a goddess as proclaimed by her nine – yep count ’em – nine second cousins. It’s complicated. But she’s the oldest of the pack and such a cool girl. The little girls are in awe, the little boys are smitten. They laugh, they play, they hang on her every word. “I want to sit by her!” “I saved you a seat!” “But I wanted to sit with her!” They eat what she eats. They hang on her arms. She is the Pied Piper of the backyard egg hunt. Mommy is so proud honey, that you’re growing into such a lovely young woman. So sweet with the children.
One thing the old momster forgot, however, is that this perfect child has a desire. One that eclipses all else. This child who can’t remember her shin guards for soccer practice knows . . . to the date . . . when she gets her “temps.” That’s right – when she can obtain a temporary driver permit. She wants nothing more than to captain her starship. She is strong. She is invincible. She is 14. And one half.
The Uncle (grandfather) in the story is a laid back kind of guy. After all, he helped raised four children. They have sprouted these nine (maybe ten now) beautiful children of their own for whom he is the perfect “poppy”. He loves his niece. He appreciates her playing with the pack. He trusts her as the eldest to keep an eye on the babies.
“Uncle Steve, can I drive the gater?” “Sure Honey.” The first time I see them, there is an actual, real live adult in the front seat with my little driver. Seven small children in the back and they are proceeding at a stately pace through the yard.
Cut to the next scene: No adult in the vehicle. Seven children laughing as my 14-year-old UNLICENSED driver high tails it down the freakin’ street . . . hair blowing in the wind . . . eyes sparkling with an insane glee and me . . . in high heels . . . scrambling to the side of the road to be the world’s biggest killjoy. She drove right by me. Fourteen year-old children do not have peripheral vision. As they careened back down the road, dodging candy-throwing neighbors and a child on a scooter . . . mommy-dearest was standing in the middle of the road.
“STOP! RIGHT THIS INSTANT!” Said the previously reasonable mom. “SLOW DOWN. Do you realize you have seven children in the back of this thing? Do you see the kids on the road? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING????”
Of course, what she was thinking was “Hey, I got this.” With your mother doing the crazy-mother-in-the-road-yelling thing, what are you supposed to think.
Later, when all children were safely on the ground and the gater was back in the garage, I was able to say “Honey, I’m sorry I yelled.” “That’s okay, mom. I was driving.”
Just get her to 18 alive.