Monday, February 25, 2013

In Which the Grape Attempts to Teach Me to Drive

Last week, the Grape's school followed years of tradition and issued the kids a week of February vacation. School vacations, while wonderful for the elementary and older set, mainly serve to discombobulate a preschooler's routine. One week, I can assure you, is plenty of time for the wheels to come off the bus in terms of getting a small child organized and out the door on schedule.

February vacation is a long held New England/American tradition, so we embrace it, and placate ourselves with visions of family ski trips in years to come. This year, the Grape and I, along with Lila the Dog, embarked on a minor road trip to visit family.

The Grape loves to ride in the car. His affection for automotive transport is no doubt enhanced by the fact that car rides are a moderately rare treat. We live in the city, walk to errands and play dates, and often go weeks without moving the car except for street cleaning. 

The Grape is a major backseat driver. He second guesses me at every turn, and the usual retort, "Would you like to drive?" is of course useless on a three-year-old. Obviously he'd like to drive, and obviously I can't allow such a thing for another fourteen years or so.

One thing that makes his backseat driver blood boil is stop lights. He gets the red, yellow, green drill, but turning arrows make him nuts. "It's green!" the Grape will insist from his car seat. "Green means go." He always says this last part with an air of put upon patience most often heard directed at small children, not by them.

I have lost count of how many times I've attempted to explain the turning arrow. "We need to turn and the light for turns is red, so we need to wait until the arrow turns green."

The Grape will indulge me, crane his neck and stretch as far as the five point harness will allow. "The light," the Grape will always proclaim, "is green."

Fortunately, we only need to make three turns at intersections in order to reach the highway, which brings its own set of challenges.

On the way home this weekend, we got stuck in a large traffic jam that doubled the length of our journey. Everyone was antsy, and everyone, including the dog, had a touch of motion malaise from the endless stopping and going. 

A black pickup truck suddenly made a sharp right into the breakdown lane and blasted off at a good forty-five-miles an hour. "Mamma! Go over there!" the Grape ordered.

"We can't. It's the breakdown lane and it's not allowed."

"Why did the black pickup truck go there?"

"I don't know, but it's not allowed."

"Is the black pickup truck naughty?"

"A little." Then I announce, with brightness I don't feel, "We are law abiding citizens. We do not drive in the breakdown lane. Also it's dangerous." 

The Grape chews on these facts for half a minute. "But Mamma, you can go fast over there. I like to go fast."

"I know, honey." I attempt to distract him and point to the southbound lane, where traffic is cruising at normal highway speed." "Look! A car carrier!"

The Grape ignores this aside and points out that traffic in the direction of my mother's house, from where we have come, is going fast. He directs me to turn the car around. Now. Now. Now!

"I can't turn around."

"Why not?" His little voice has a shrill edge now. He's had it with this adventure in gridlock. The dog whines, snivels, readjusts her rather large form on her side of the backseat. I crack her window and hope she's not about to puke. The Grape repeats his demand that we reverse course and return to my mother's house, some eighty miles south of our current location.

"I cannot turn around because this is the expressway. Mamma cannot do a U turn on the expressway."

"I want to go fast." Tears of frustration start welling in the Grape's eyes. I silently wonder whether I should let the Grape watch movies on long car trips—ones that last more than ninety minutes. As if reading my mind, the Grape announces that his friend, T., has a television in her car. "T.'s mom has a Toyota minivan. We should buy a Toyota minivan," he says, as we finally merge onto the exit ramp and start moving. 

I exhale. Only four stoplights to go between us and home.

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