But there was a severe lack of electricity, entertainment and sanity. And it was hot. The kind of hot that makes your brain melt. So, I did what any strong, independent woman does in these situations — ran to my Mommy’s house.
Four sets of eyes looked at me with confusion and despair. Max, 10, Paul, 8, Grace 4 and Luke, 1 and 1/2. I literally shot off with scantally clad children, diapers, wipes and toothbrushes. I don’t remember much about the trip there except that the kids seemed relieved and I drove very fast.
The trip back from my mom’s house was an entirely different.
Replace the adreneline with pure fatigue. Replace the calm focus with a nervous twitch.
Then, the I-10 incident of 2004 happened — the most out-of-control moment of my entire mothering experience.
Only two hours into the nine-hour haul, the baby (Luke) had fallen asleep. Any mom knows that when a toddler is sleeping in a car, it’s like sacred ground: be reverent, be quiet and above all, enjoy it.
“Stop touching me! You’re bothering me….Quit!”
“Mom, she’s bugging me. Tell her to stop!”
Paul and Grace, because of some sort of deep-seated, psychological birth order issue whined in voices that I can only compare to mating cats. From the driver’s seat I motioned to them silently to stop fighting. I whispered loudly, “Shhhhh! Your brother is asleep. Please stop!” Then, I saw Luke stretch and yawn as his sweet, little green eyes opened.
What happened next will surely be a psychiatrist couch conversation of “What-My-Mother-Did-To-Ruin-My-Self-Esteem-And-Scar-Me-Forever.”
Poor Max. He was my accomplice. However worried he was, he complied. “Max, when I pull over, just move aside.”
A screeching halt on the pull-over lane on I-10 in the brutal August heat of Florida brought my kids to my own personal “Shock and Awe” campaign. I ran around, threw open the door revealing the same set of four eyes looking at me. This time it was out of terror.
My anger unleashed: “I told you to SHUT UP! You guys woke up Luke!” I screamed.
Both Paul and Grace weighed about 40 pounds each, so lifting them out of the back row seat wasn’t unthinkable. However, plopping their bare feet on the hot, black asphault in the middle of Summer was unthinkable. As they jumped up and down, crying and carrying on, I spanked them, holding one arm in the air with three swift pops on their bottoms. Then, I threw them back into the car with the same zeal I brought them out.
I slammed my door, put the car in drive and squealed back into the oncoming traffic to getting up to my coasting speed of 80 mph.
Silence. Big eyes. Quivering lips. That vision is one I will never forget. It’s the look on your kid’s face that says, “Hey! I thought you loved me. Why did you hurt me?”
“My feet hurt.”
“Max, grab my cell phone and call the nearest Target or WalMart and ask them if they have portable DVD players in stock. I don’t care how much they cost,” I said. At the Target in Tallahassee, we purchased the only hurricane relief item I really needed that day.
A few Disney videos later, we were home.
I didn’t forgive myself for a long time after that day. I didn’t tell many people about my blow up. I didn’t have to–my kids did. Oh, how humbling.
They are 19,17,13 and 9 now and they still talk about the I-10 incident. Usually, they do it with humor: “Don’t make mom go all I-10 on you!” Ha, ha, ha.
Time has a way of making tragic times humorous for me.
Thank goodness. None of us would be able to handle this memory without it.