The prom­ise of a bus hunt

Maryland Independent - - Classified/Home & Apartment Finder - Twit­ter: @right­meg

The time has come to call upon that age-old par­ent­ing tac­tic: bribery. Now that Oliver has the lan­guage skills to ar­tic­u­late what he does (and, more fre­quently, does not) want, I’m left scram­bling — and beg­ging — for him to lis­ten at the be­gin­ning and end of our days. To not be late for work, I must coax my son out of bed, get him down­stairs where his sis­ter is cap­ti­vated by “Sesame Street,” into his shoes and out to the drive­way. This can take 20 min­utes, at least.

Once we’re out­side, I re­peat­edly ask him to come over so I can lift him into his car seat: a Her­culean task if ever there was one. Ol­lie is the king of stall tac­tics, so he sud­denly has an in­ter­est in ev­ery­thing from the gar­den hose to weeds to air­planes over­head in an at­tempt to . . . well, I don’t know. Dis­tract me? Pro­long the in­evitable, for sure.

I’ve had to go into Mean Mommy mode a few times re­cently be­cause the kid just does not lis­ten. It’s like I’m talk­ing to one of his stuffed ele­phants for as much re­ac­tion as I get. Ac­tu­ally, the ele­phant would prob­a­bly be more re­spon­sive; it plays “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” Loudly.

This all makes me feel ter­ri­ble, of course. Though he loves his babysit­ter and friends, I’m still hus­tling him out the door at sun­rise with ag­i­ta­tion ra­di­at­ing from my pores. My hus­band and I have been try­ing to get up ear­lier so we’re both less rushed in the morn­ing, but that would mean the first alarm go­ing off at 4:30. That’s with both of us work­ing in South­ern Mary­land. Imag­ine if we had to get into Wash­ing­ton?

Few peo­ple in our area are strangers to the aw­ful com­mute, and I grew up with two par­ents reg­u­larly mak­ing soul-crush­ing drives. I re­mem­ber think­ing that my mother — who now schleps to North­ern Vir­ginia from Wal­dorf — had to be a zom­bie per­son leav­ing for work at 5:30 a.m. I used to get up with her to say good­bye, then go back to bed for a lit­tle while longer. As the old fam­ily story goes, I once crept down­stairs and looked at her with piti­ful tod­dler eyes. “Mommy,” I asked, “where do you go in the night?” Heart­break. Oliver once skipped to the car, lov­ing the ex­cite­ment of our daily trav­els, but has be­come more ornery in re­cent months. Now that he knows ex­actly what I want him to do (walk), he finds it hi­lar­i­ous to run away from me. I threaten to carry him if he won’t use his own legs, but Ol­lie would prove my threats idle ev­ery time if I didn’t muster the strength to fol­low through. And be­fore cof­fee? Well. The only method to speed our feet-drag­ging ev­ery week­day seems to come in the form of flat-out briber y.

“Ol­lie,” I start, al­ways in my singsong voice, “if you get in the car, we can have your muffins.”

The minia­ture choco­late chip pas­tries get him ev­ery time. This ap­pe­tizer to his ac­tual break­fast is one of my more ef­fec­tive of­fer­ings.

“Ol­lie!” I call. “‘Sesame Street’ is on! Don’t you want to watch Elmo? If you come watch Elmo, we’ll get some ap­ple juice.”

Best used around 6:30 a.m., when I’ve set Hadley up with her new fa­vorite show and cranked it just loud enough for Oliver to pay at­ten­tion to it up­stairs. Cu­rios­ity will get the bet­ter of him even­tu­ally.

“Oliver,” Spence will say, “if you fin­ish your chicken, we can drive to the play­ground.”

Or, more re­cently, we can kick a ball around our own yard. Get­ting to an ac­tual play­ground can be a touch am­bi­tious.

Rea­son­ing with Ol­lie through the con­cepts of cause and ef­fect has been in­ter­est­ing. At some point, he be­came the calmer child; six-month-old Hadley is an­other col­umn. He’s re­ally start­ing to get that if he fol­lows di­rec­tions now, a ben­e­fit will come later. And that’s pretty cool to see.

Of course, he of­ten de­cides get­ting into his own an­tics is more fun in the short term — so we dig around for what­ever shards of pa­tience Spence and I still pos­sess and try to bal­ance let­ting him have fun against driv­ing ev­ery­one crazy.

I pull out all the stops each morn­ing. Trac­tor videos, muffins, milk, talk­ing to baby (he’s warm­ing up): what­ever I can of­fer to get him down­stairs with­out me hav­ing to haul him there like a scream­ing, hys­ter­i­cal sack of pota­toes. Life just goes so much smoother when he thinks it’s his idea, you know?

My bribes lately in­volve school buses: the search for them on our morn­ing drive, es­pe­cially. We’ve taken to count­ing the big yel­low buses on our way to the babysit­ter’s, and en­tic­ing Ol­lie into his car seat with the prom­ise of a bus hunt is some­thing I feel only slightly bad about do­ing.

I mean, we see buses daily; it’s not like I’m ly­ing to him. Ex­cept when I for­got it was Fair Day Fri­day and all the usual ve­hi­cles were “sleep­ing.”

On a nor­mal morn­ing, how­ever, we pass at least a dozen.

“See? See?” Ol­lie shouts from the back seat. “Ooh, big school bus! Yel­low bus! Mommy, see?”

It’s the lit­tle things for kids, you know? Lit­tle things like promis­ing rides on his sit­ter’s foot-pow­ered trac­tor and shar­ing her toy school bus — but only if Ol­lie goes in­side. That? That gets him mov­ing. Fi­nally.

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