This morning, I took Emmy and Oren to a mommy group "festive cookie decorating get-together" at one of the mommy leaders' houses. It was a well-attended event, and by the time the kids and I arrived at the house, the driveway was already packed full of family-friendly vehicles. So I parked our car on the sidewalk, helped the kids out of their car seats, and we made our way up to the house.
On our walk up the driveway, I gave in to my voyeuristic urges, and peeked inside the windows of all the other mama cars. I wasn't scoping out their car seats, or sizing up their interior upholstery. I was on a mission to find out if the other parents' vehicles were in the same state of horrible messiness our car is always in. It's gotten so bad, I've nicknamed the poor Hyundai "Carmageddon."
It's not that I don't clean. I DO. Just maybe not ENOUGH. And, seeing as I play chaperone to a 3 year old girl and 1 year old boy, the cards are seriously stacked against me.
Whenever we get into the car, my daughter decides she is dying of thirst, and my son starts screaming for a snack, so I grab a juice box and a bag of pretzels. As soon as I put my key in the ignition, my daughter goes to town, spilling as much of her juice box as possible all over her skirt, her car seat, and the floor beneath her. My son eats half of the pretzels I give him, and then throws the other pretzel pieces in the air like its New Years' Eve confetti.
And every time we leave the house, my daughter has to bring an entourage with her. She will tell me that her BFF pink kitty cat needs to come shopping with us, and her plastic dinosaur wants to come along to make sure we don't get in an accident, and we need to drop her My Little Pony off at pony school. She also wants to bring a toy to play with (because the other things are her FRIENDS, not her TOYS), some markers and paper so she can write HER shopping list (which consists of the letter "E"), a musical instrument, and a ball to throw at my head while I am driving.
Also, both of my children seem to be somewhat obsessed with taking their clothes off in our car. We will leave our home totally clothed in seasonally appropriate outfits, but by the time we arrive at our destination, the kids have stripped down to their underwear and sunglasses, looking like they are headed to the beach. I swear, it can be the dead of winter, with wind chills in the negative teens, and my son will still think the car has a "no shirt, no shoes, NO PROBLEM" policy.
So every afternoon, after my children and I return from our play dates and shopping excursions, the car looks like it is has just barely survived a nuclear explosion. Pink kitty cat has found refuge underneath the front passenger seat. Plastic dinosaur is floating in a pool of juice in a side door compartment. My Little Pony is nibbling on pretzel crumbs that have been smooshed into the seat cushions, my children's shoes are having a secret meeting under the driver's seat, and the back of the passenger seat has been "tagged" with red marker. Total Carmageddon.
I'd probably be a little more motivated to keep the car spotless if I thought the car could STAY clean for, say, more than twenty seven seconds. But I know better. I know that the minute I finish vacuuming up the pretzel crumbs and scrubbing juice off the carpet, my daughter is going to beg for more juice, my son is going to scream for another snack, and fourteen stuffed animals are going to be hitching a ride to the supermarket. Why fight fate?
But every time I see a spotless family car, with no sign of crumbs, clothes, or kitty cat friends, I am filled with envy and wonder. Do other parents just deny their children snacks in the car? Do they refuse to give rides to hitchhiking stuffed animals? Do they glue their children's shoes to their feet? Or do they just spend an hour cleaning up the car at the end of each day?
Which kind of parent are you? If you manage to keep your car clean, how DO you do it??? Is it sorcery?
Parenting with imagination. Or at least trying.
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