Sunday, May 01, 2011

Mirror images

"Are we there yet? When will we get there? Are we there yet? "How far have we gone? Are we there yet?"

"Yes! We're there!" I say with eye-squinted sarcasm. "And in a few minutes we'll be there, too."

She looks at me skeptically. She knew as well as I that we'd not yet passed the edge of town and it was going to be a long drive until we reached our destination.

What she didn't know was the exact number of hours in which she could continue making us wish we were rendered temporarily deaf.

"When the clock says ‘3:00’ we will be there," I instruct in my most stern Don't-Be-A-Pest voice.

I don't expect it to work.

It's not as if she were the first child to join the Society for Sapping Parents' Sanity. It's an institution that predates history. I'm sure somewhere, on the walls of a cave, there are drawings of bison hunts in which large stick figures are depicted holding their hands over their ears as smaller stick figures are cushioned by bubbles of text that would loosely translate as: "When do we eat?"

As much as we all complain about being a captive audience in a cross-over vehicle, it's all so tame compared to how it will be once we get to the hotel.

The questions don't stop they are just addressed elsewhere, often embarrassingly so.

"Why does that guy have a towel on his head? Did he forget to hang it by the tub after he showered?"

These are the kind of questions that make you wish you could just keep kids in their car seats and drive them right to the room. In fact you daydream that the entire vacation could be experienced via drive-in:In your mind a visit to the pool would be the same as popping the trunk, filling it with water and handing them swim goggles. Go ahead, kids, splash away.

The big problem we face as parents, though, seems to have little to do with our kids' big-mouthed questions and more to do with our pathetic and shriveled answers.

Often we just don't know what to say so we pretend we don't hear.

And thus continues the never-ending cycle. We avert our eyes and when we raise them again we are always catching the glinty-eyed disapproval of fellow travelers. Perfect strangers, we think, until they scrunch their noses in our direction and wonder aloud about children being seen and not heard.

We are THOSE parents. The ones all the single people hope not to be and newly retired folks have, up until now, successfully avoided. We feel slightly panicked by the notion that our kids could be an annoyance to the childless, but not enough to make us book our destination to Kid Central instead. I can't face that roller coaster just yet.

We just repeat The Rules as often as we can.

“You can not bother the desk clerk. It is not their job to get you a cookie.

“Your seat is next to mine. Do NOT try to sit on lap of the lady at the next table.

“We are not getting room service. Put down the phone. “

Thing is, children will be children wherever they go.

Ittybit strikes up a conversation with another little girl poolside and is delighted to learn they share not only the same grade number but also the same name, spelling and all. After the discovery the pair will be inseparable in their minds if not their activities roster. They call out their own names in novel delight.

The questions become more pointed.

“When can I see her again?

“Can we go to dinner?

“Can I see her room?

“Can we play tomorrow?

“Can we have a sleepover?”

I see where this is going.

"We are not going to stalk this little girl and her family. I am not asking the hotel for her room number. ... We can go to the pool and the lobby and if they're there fine ... but I don't want you to get your hopes up. Families have plans and they're not likely to include perfect strangers you meet at a pool."

She gave me the squinted-eye look again. I knew exactly what it meant.

Somewhere in the hotel was a mirror of the same conversation, being begged by a girl named Ittybit with a different last name. ... And we WERE going to stalk them.

Eventually we'd find each other and know that the really wonderful part about being THAT parent is the realization that we're not alone. And the only reason we gain this wisdom is because our children refuse to stop asking questions.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Delightful! My favorite is "Do NOT try to sit on the lap of the lady at the next table!"

When I was about her age, we attended a very large Baptist Church, and my mom would hold my hand on the way to the sanctuary. But once, she had to let go for just a moment--and I took another lady's hand! I didn't do it on purpose--I just wasn't paying attention!