We are headed home from North Jersey. I hear on the radio that the Turnpike is a mess. Having already spent an additional half an hour on the Parkway behind a five-car pileup, it seems like a good idea to take an alternate route.
That, of course, is trafficked too. Apparently, I’m not the only one with this idea. We’ve been in the car for two hours already, and will be at least forty minutes late for dinner. Sophie is being a trouper. Sick of reading, she’s got her headphones on and is lip syncing to Kidz Bopp. Every now and then she shouts out, “I love this one!” jarring me out of my own podcast reverie.
Then, all of a sudden, we have an emergency.
“Mom! I have to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW.” How is it that there is never any fair warning? That she goes from perfectly comfortable to explosive bladder in a split second? As a teacher, I could hold it for seven hours straight. I’ve got sphincters of steel.
I was planning to stop off at Whole Foods to pick up a piece of fish on the way home. Perhaps she could hold it until then. It’s only about five minutes down the road.
“Can you hold it for just another couple minutes?”
“No! I can’t! Mom, could you just pull over? I can’t wait another second.” Of course, there’s nowhere to pull over. We are surrounded by industrial parks and grassy shoulders. We are not going to make it to Whole Foods. I’ve got to hope that something comes up soon before she soaks the backseat.
Ruby Tuesdays appears on the horizon.
“Look! There’s a place! Go there!” Alas, another detour. Such is the life of a parent. You have to go with the flow.
I pull over. Here is the true challenge. Getting her from the car to the stall without incident. Sophie has a Pavlovian response to bathrooms. Just seeing the toilet sends her system a message. I have been the victim of classical conditioning before. It’s particularly irksome when it happens just before she sits down.
But this is not one of these times. She whoops triumphantly as I breathe a sigh of relief. We won’t be slinking out of Ruby Tuesdays, leaving a puddle behind. This time.
I check my watch. It’s twenty minutes later than the last time I checked. We are never getting home.
Sophie pops out of the stall, adjusting her belt.
“Wash your hands, please,” I instruct, drying off my own. She walks towards the sink, but gets stuck in front the full-length mirror on the wall. Pop music is being pumped into the bathroom, and Sophie starts to gyrate.
If I weren’t in a rush, it would be cute. I might even join her.
“Sophie! It’s not time for dancing! Please wash your hands!”
She acts like she hasn’t heard me, giving a couple more revolutions of her hips before I bodily usher her over to the sink.
“Hey!” She says, “You don’t have to push me!” Uh, yes, I do.
She squirts some soap on her hands and immediately rinses it off.
“Soph, you’ve got to rub your hands together,” I squirt her again, despite the fact that now we’ve been in the bathroom at Ruby Tuesdays for almost ten minutes. She sings as she washes her hands, saunters over to the paper towel dispenser, and proceeds to meticulously dry off her hands.
I hold open the bathroom door, “Let’s go.”
“Mom? Why are we rushing?” It is a good question. To get home five minutes faster than we would otherwise? What does it really matter, now? Why am I stressing myself out more in service at arriving home at an arbitrary time? Why don’t I just text Kevin and tell him: I’m going to be late. Really late.
“You want to go out for dinner? Meet at Zinburger?” Kevin texts back. The thought has not occurred to me. I have been so consumed with plan A, with getting back On Time to Make Dinner, I never considered that there might be another, more gentle way.
“Yes. Thank you. That would be perfect.” I type.
The sun is setting. We get back into the car. The road opens up, I release my grip on the wheel, turn on the radio and together, Sophie and I just enjoy the ride.