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Synchronized family meltdown, parking lot style

Posted May 20 2008 12:00am

The parked car bounced. Craig wiggled in his booster seat avoiding the seatbelt Jay was trying to latch. He let out a string of words, only partially understandable.

Jay spoke back sternly.

I turned around in the driver’s chair and said, “Both of you quit arguing.” Ugh, for the last couple of days that’s all I’ve heard. “Craig, you let your brother buckle you in right now.”

“No! Wahn bawoo.” Craig leaned forward and reached for the front of the car. His three balloons from the hair stylists fluttered up and down on the floorboard.

“First seat then balloons.”

Craig settled back down. I turned around and impatiently waited. Where was Jimmy? He was taking forever in the pharmacy. I was frazzled, the boys were tired and this was getting ugly real quick. That we made it out of the store in one piece – the three of us – was practically a miracle. Now we had to sit in the hot parking lot and wait for a straggler?

“Noooo. I no wahn Jooo do it.”

“Sit in this seat right now or you’re not getting your balloons.”

“Noooo! Wahnnnnn bawoooo.”

The boys had erupted into arguing again. If it wasn’t about the seatbelt it would be about something else. What would help? If I sang a song Jay would roll his eyes but Craig might settle down. I turned around, but before I could attempt a tune there was a splat.

Jay looked out his open passenger door. “Oh great. It’s ruined.” His grumpy mood turned angry.

I groaned. “You put your triple berry ice cream sundae on the roof of the car?”

Jay didn’t answer. He didn’t have to.

I couldn’t leave it at that. I had to give him the preachy mother-lecture. “Well apparently you haven’t learned about car roofs and cups yet. Guess you know now.”

With that required super-intelligent lesson given, we slumped back into our chairs, stared out the windows and pouted. Craig followed suit.

Say what?

Five minutes later Jimmy approached the car looking so happy he should’ve been whistling. After placing his purchases in the trunk he poked his head in the car and said, “Whoa, what’s wrong with you?”



No not really. While you were out we had an entire circus act happening. You missed the final car stunt because you were off buying peanuts. “Jay dumped his ice cream.”

“Saw that. How’d that happen?”

I pointed to the ceiling of the car. “He hadn’t learned about roofs and cups yet.”

Jimmy didn’t seem daunted. He walked around the car, picked up the mess and took it to the trash.

Once a new sundae was purchased we all buckled in, including Craig — who irritated Jay by bopping him with a balloon — and were on our way.

While I navigated traffic and stoplights, Jimmy said, “So the ice cream set you off?”

What? Oh he didn’t just ask that. As if that was all that happened.“Didn’t you hear the uproar at the checkout line while you were shopping?” There was no way he strolled casually through the aisles, taking his luxurious time browsing each item of interest and didn’t hear the madness happening only a few yards away.

“Uh, no.”

I gave him a mean glance and then focused back on the road. “You didn’t hear the commotion caused by your youngest son running about the store, grabbing stuff off the shelves, dashing around the cash register and picking up the store’s phone?”


“You didn’t hear your oldest son arguing with him the whole time I was trying to handle the situation? Then, while I was paying the clerk, your youngest found the magic of automatic doors and got in everyone’s way making them open and shut?”” I didn’t let Jimmy answer. “And when I went to get him he dashed out the door and damn near got hit by a car?”

That’s right, I was on a guilt-packing-finger-shaking vent with a sarcastic ender. “Yeah, it was the ice cream that set me off.”

On a funny note

Later that night, after Craig was tucked in to bed, Jay and I sat at the kitchen table, finally getting a chance to eat our frozen confections.

After eating a bite of berry syrup, Jay said, “Mom. I’m sorry I made you mad today.”

Oh jeez, poor kid. He thought that whole outburst was about him. “Hey, I’m sorry. I wasn’t really mad about your sundae. It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Jay shook his head. “What does that mean?”

“Uh, you know when you’re already upset and something small comes along and it’s the last thing you could take? It’s that little thing that sets you off?”

“Um, yeah.” He looked confused.

“Well, a camel is like a pack animal. They carry large, heavy loads on their back. So if the load is already too heavy, and someone puts a straw on it … they say that’s what broke their back.”


“That’s what the saying about the straw and camel means.” There, I followed up my parking lot mother-lecture with something more substantial and educational than a ‘guess you know now.’

“Okay. Well,” Jay said, looking at me like I was talking gibberish, “I already knew that. I thought you said candle, not camel.”


“Yeah.” Jay took a big bite of his ice cream and swallowed. “Yeah, I already understand the saying about camels. I’ve known it for a long time.”

Oh. Duh. I didn’t know that. Guess I do now. Writing and parenting beyond the norm.
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