It was only a bit more than 12, but those were wonderful mornings. I’d strap her in, toss her stroller in the back of my behemoth SUV and drive to park at the Indiana Statehouse. I’d stroller her over to the Day Nursery across the street.
Our only problem those mornings was dodging the hordes of smokers who congregated in front of the doors. Most of them were helpful, waving away the clouds of smoke from the stroller as I’d approach and smiling at the bald little baby inside.
As she grew older, we’d chatter a bit. One day, I stopped at a red light just short of the Statehouse. As the light changes, I heard from the back seat: “Go, Dog. Go!”
And that began our tradition of “reading” her thick-paged books on the way to “school.” She’d memorized “Goodnight Moon” “Pajama Game” and “Moo Boo Lalala” from Sandra Boynton along with the PD Eastman’s classic.
Those were wonderful days. Eventually, I left state government and Jeff got to drive Ali to school. Yes, I was totally jealous and missed the conversations that just got better as she grew more verbal. When she started school, I got her back, and he was totally jealous.
We’d bike on good days. There’s a lot of intel dished on those little drives, let me tell you. It’s a time to treasure. She’s captive there in her seat and she’s a chatterer by nature. So if you’re smart, you learn to drink it in.
So I got her for kindergarten and part of first grade. When I started at Angie’s List, Jeff got her back. I go in earlier than he does, and it fits better for him to take the morning and me to take the evening. It’s only a three-minute drive, but still. It’s 1-on-1 time.
Jeff had an overnight business trip this week and I got to take her to school Wednesday morning. I’d had her to myself the prior night as well and we snuggled and watched Big Bang Theory re-runs. She even convinced me to play Mario Kart with her.
I’m beyond terrible at video games. She said I’d never get better if I didn’t try. I really, really, didn’t want to try. But I did. And guess what? I was TERRIBLE.
I died a thousand deaths, hit more walls than track and was completely befuddled when she bellows at me to push the button on the back, "You'll get a rocket!!!!" What? Where's this button. Damn. Into the lava again!
When I muttered that Rosalina was a sucky driver, she put her hand out and said, “Mom. She’s not a sucky driver. YOU are. Don’t hate the character.”
I tried not to curse. I actually tried to drive. But that Rosalina doesn’t know how to steer, man.
Anyway, we had a lovely time. After I’d turned out the lights she wanted to have a little girl chat in the dark. We talked about her potential love life and stories about how Jeff and I had met and become a couple. “Mom, you know you’ve told me that story like, 100 times, right?” she said after I’d finished, being careful to edit the story of when I’d tried to set Jeff up with a friend of mine and he hadn’t appreciated it because he was ahead of me in the “I think we should try this” game.
She waited until I was done, though, so I think she likes that story.
On the drive to school the next morning, I almost wanted to drive past the school. She was strapped in. She was “Hey, Momming” me. She was making note of the squirrel activity in our neighborhood, talking about her upcoming day and reminiscing about our girls night.
Of course, she was still fixated on my Mario skilz -- or lack thereof.
"You said so many bad words, Mom. You said the 's' word the 'd' word , another 's' word and you almost said the 'f' word."
I demurred, sure she was mistaken.
"And the 'g' word, and a word I haven't even heard before."
I didn't even think to shout, "Stop, dog. Stop!"
Sure, I might have used some in appropriate words. Sure we laid around watching too much TV and eating take-out food. I won't win any parenting awards, but it was fun. And when your kid can tease you about using bad words at least they know they are off-limit words. Right?
Eh. I'll risk it. I want credit for her early-years vocabulary skills -- not her most recent ones.