I was going to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in three years at a State park an hour and a half away. I had a very narrow window of opportunity to see her and every second counted.
It was the usual mad scramble to get everyone up, fed, dressed and dropped-off, but I was speeding down the interstate with Small before 8:30 a.m.
Struck by the novelty of being out with only one child, I made a conscious effort to converse with him rather than zone out to NPR. The sun was shining and for once, we were on schedule. Eventually, we fell into a companionable silence. Miles passed. Then:
“Mommmmyyy, I got to go.”
I sighed. “Didn’t you go potty before we left the house?”
There was no response.
“How bad do you have to go? Can you hold it?”
We were maybe a half an hour from our destination. He could probably hold it. I thought a simple distraction might do the trick. “Henry! Look up! There’s geese!”
“I don’t want to. I have to pee!”
Defeated, I said, “OK, Henry, hold it. Don’t pee. We’ll find a bathroom.”
I hunched over the wheel and pressed on the accelerator while keeping up a crazed commentary. “Hang in there! There’s a rest area coming up. It’s just a mile. You can do it! Henry, look! Is that a beaver pond over there? Look for a beaver! Can you see a beaver?”
When I saw the blue sign for the rest area, my shoulders relaxed. I drifted toward the exit, mentally adding a fifteen minute delay to our estimated time of arrival. I was almost on the ramp when, suddenly, I realized there were multiple blue lights flashing in the rest area’s parking lot. State troopers. Lots of them.
“Oh, fuck that,” I said, yanking on the steering wheel.
I glanced in the rearview mirror to see Henry’s expression. I am usually careful about not using profanity around the kids—particularly the F-bomb. I’ve no doubt that they’ve heard all the words before and will, in all likelihood, hear them again, but I’d rather they not hear them from me.
Desperate times called for desperate measures.
“Ok, Henry,” I chirped. “We’re going to go to the bathroom at McDonald’s. It’s at the next exit and it’s not far. You like McDonald’s. They aren’t serving french fries but I can get you a hash brown.”
Another quick glance into the back seat. Had he peed already? Was he mulling the definition of this fun, new vocabulary word?
The scene unspooled in my mind’s eye: He’d grin mischievously and then the chanting would start: “Fug dat, Mommy, fug dat….”
I held my breath and caught his eye. He grinned at me. “Ok, Mommy. I hold it.”