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Sherri Richards, Published August 03 2010

Parenting Perspectives: Car provides refuge for stressed mom

This past week, my parenting took a back seat, literally. Twice I found myself, in the midst of a toddler tantrum, fleeing to the back seat of my car for refuge.

The most recent was a very public grocery store display I hoped my vehicle would make more private.

There were only three things on my shopping list – milk, lettuce and training pants for 2-year-old Eve (who thought cookies should also be on the list) – so I asked if she wanted to ride in a cart or walk.

Walk, she said.

But as soon as we were on the other end of the store, Eve decided she wanted a cart.

No, I said, rationally. It would take longer to get the cart than it would to finish our shopping.

But toddlers aren’t rational. I should have just gotten the darn cart.

Instead, I lugged my gallon of skim and bag of greens and mega-jumbo pack of Pull-Ups along with a flailing, screaming, 30-pound child.

Oh, the looks we got as I clumsily checked out my items. Eve’s screaming grew worse once she realized I hadn’t bought any cookies.

Trying to get her in the car was a physical effort akin to battling a kraken. Limbs flew everywhere as she struggled against me. I finally just shut the door without buckling her. We sat in the parked, running car until she calmed down.

A few days earlier, I’d used a similar back-seat maneuver, but to calm myself instead.

We had a 9 a.m. appointment at the gym’s day care that I was determined to keep. But that morning, Eve simply refused to get dressed or wear a diaper.

I felt myself get more and more frustrated as she tore off her clothes as fast as I wrestled them on her. I heard my voice grow louder and louder until I was yelling.

“Enough!” I screamed.

Quickly, I realized it was as much a reprimand of myself as it was of Eve.

I grabbed my naked baby, a diaper, pink dress and shoes and drove to the gym. She didn’t fight being buckled in the car seat, a bit bewildered, I think, at her nude state.

I knew the coming and going of other exercisers would force me to put on my calmest mommy front as I dressed her in the back seat. Within a few minutes Eve was still upset, but clothed.

In this case, my back seat provided a public venue for how to properly dismantle a parental time bomb.

Let’s call it parenting by the dashboard lights.


Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com.