Every day, after picking the girls up from daycare, I drive the couple of blocks to our house and pull up to the street-side mailbox. Every day when we approach the mailbox, I hear the click of Maddie’s seat belt releasing. And every day, I groan inside.
I don’t know how it started, but we have to play this game. Maddie will hop down from her booster seat and “hide” in the back of the van. I will glance back and pretend to be surprised. “Oh no, where is Maddie?” I will ask. Katie will grin. “Uh oh,” I will continue, “we must have left her at daycare! Do you think we should go back and get her?” Katie will giggle. A giggle will escape from Maddie, too, hidden in the back of the van. I’ll pull into the driveway and unload Katie and all our bags from the car, talking the whole time about what life will be like without Maddie. Eventually, Maddie will reveal herself, and I’ll be oh so surprised.
Every. Day. The same thing.
Most days, I just don’t want to play along. The day is long and I am tired and can’t I have just two minutes of peace and quiet before we go inside and start the unpacking and the snacking and the cooking and the Mommy-where-is-this and Mommy-can-I-have that? Can’t we just pull into the driveway in silence, for the love of my sanity? I’m just so tired.
I don’t want to play this dumb game.
When I was little, my mom would leave us in the car while she ran into the Dairy Basket for a week’s worth of lunch meat. (Back then I guess it was okay for parents to leave their kids alone in the car for a minute. A safer world and all that.) She would get back in the car, and my sister and I would hide behind the front seat making animal noises. “What’s that noise?” my mom would ask. “Is there a pig in the car?” Gosh, we thought that was so funny. I’m sure my mom was bone tired and wishing for some peace and quiet, for the love of her sanity.
I remember those nights for some reason. After all these years, I still remember my mom playing along so we could have a laugh.
Which is why tomorrow, when we pull up to the mailbox and I hear the click of Maddie’s seatbelt, I’ll glance back and pretend to be surprised.