Choreographed Driving (Confessions from an Octo-Mom)


I feel like I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe.  ~Author Unknown

     OK, so I’m not really the OctoMom, but I can sincerely appreciate her every minute of her every day getting all fourteen of her little ones up, fed, dressed, and ultimately driven to a destination.  Besides this isn’t about her; it’s about me.  I am still the busy mom of one busy six year old boy, as well as a proud mama of two adult kids.  However, now days when driving to school, activities, errands, and even day trips,  it’s usually just my son and me.  Sounds simple  you’re probably thinking–especially you busy moms of two, three, or a van full of kids, all in diapers and pull-ups, multiple activities, and probably a part-time or even full-time job for yourself.

Well, all I can say, is hold on a dog gone minute.  It’s not that simple.  First of all, let me be clear about one thing:  I don’t do Super Mom.  Since my home office desk is just too damn small (it would make Goldilocks cry), I had to outsource some of the required space I need to the passenger side of my mini-van.  This seat holds my paper work calendar and address book (in case my phone ever vanishes).  It’s also my coupon repository for assorted retail stores,  and  various restaurants which I frequent due to exhaustion from working  in a physical labor environment, and just being a mom over forty.

This seat also doubles as a tray table for fast food eaten on the run, water bottles, and sometimes fast food cups, because the two drink holders are taken up with the GPS thingy on the left  holder,  and the IPOD on the right.  The ashtray is where all change is stored– our family’s  entire “emergency fund.”  (I once cried happy tears when I remembered I even started this fund and found a whopping  seventy four cents!  Jumping Jackpots!  I had enough to get enough gas just to drive home and retrieve the forgotten pocketbook which contained the plastic-endowed wallet that could have bought the gas in the first place.)

Also found on my van’s  impressive instrument panel is a three foot long IPOD extension cord, which falls just inches short of reaching my son’s outstretched arms in his booster seat.  It connects to my aftermarket stereo jack,  since IPODs weren’t standard in 2001 vehicles. Therefore, I run interference between him, the stereo, and IPOD frequently.  Another cord from one cigarette lighter  powers my GPS, and the other cigarette lighter is designated for my Smart Phone’s charging cord.  I would probably be a more relaxed driver if I at least had the option of smoking, but clearly this will never be the case.  My tiny dash, that is all 12 cubic inches of space in front of my odometer and fuel gauge, serves as the jukebox repository for music CDs, my bank (where I put my paychecks) and our Accounts Payable system (where all our retail and grocery receipts go), as well as our personal post office—outgoing mail on the left, incoming on the right.

And this is why I have to participate in Choreographed Driving.  What is choreographed driving you ask?  Let me explain by way of example.  Yesterday, just my son and I decided to take a day trip to the beach.  Puh-leeze you are thinking.  Mom of one; how hard can that even be? ” Very!” would be my response.    You see, I have an over-thinking brain, which though it shames me only somewhat, sort of reflects my less-than-organized approach to life.   So when driving, yesterday to the beach for just one day, this is how it went down.

Thirty minutes of uninterrupted driving occur.  Then like clockwork, “Mom, I’m starving,”  my six year old informs me.   Fine, I’ll pull into Mickey D’s and grab a Happy Meal.  I move the collection of sand toys, shovels, and buckets behind me and extend my right arm an additional twelve inches to get my pocketbook which has now migrated southwest of my son’s seat.  Another words, it’s virtually in third row seating.

Fast food sack and drink is quickly distributed to the youthful back seat captain directly behind me.  I get back on the highway and I’m putting my debit card in my wallet as I drive.  My son then informs me he can’t put his Yogurt Parfait together without spilling it ALL OVER the back seat.  Sorry, but I value the character trait of enabling, way more than a van that reeks of sour yogurt-encrusted carpet.   No problem!  I contort my arm behind my seat, and grab all the disassembled parts of the fruit parfait, and carefully pull it back to the front while I assemble it.

Next, I glance at the GPS, to make sure we haven’t gotten back on the interstate in the wrong direction.  We’re fine.  Eureka!  Suddenly,  as I’m doing this, I get a moment of inspiration regarding five topics I wish to write about all  flooding my head at the same moment.  QUICK!   I reach up and grab a pen from my car’s visor and start scribbling on a pad of paper also kept on the passenger side, aka “the desk”,  for emergency thinking such as this.  I write in a language, nearly unbeknownst to even me, and I will spend painstaking hours later trying to translate it back to English.    No matter, the fruit parfait now has the correct proportion of nuts and accompanying desleeved spoon in it, and has been safely returned to my son.  He has his drink and mine is resting securely in the car’s third drink holder, that is to say it’s sitting snugly between my legs, causing serious thigh freezer burn!

My phone rings, but mysteriously  won’t “accept” the call.  DAMN IT!  What’s wrong with my phone?  I disassemble the protective case sans screwdrivers, and then the phone itself while trying not to destroy all of my fingernails, take out the battery, and wait the five minutes for it to reset.

“MOM!  The IPOD won’t go to such and such song.”   Fine, back goes my Go Go Gadget  arm for the fifteenth time this trip to retrieve the IPOD that my son was holding.  I find the White Stripes Ball and Biscuit song I assume he was trying to search for.  This is soon followed by the Bare Naked Ladies singing the Christmas song God Rest Ye Gentleman because my son is a DJ Mix Master Extraordinaire

       Long trips such as this are infused with an eclectic mix that trend heavy towards Christmas songs,  mixed with some White Stripes, Toby Mac,  Go-Tye,  a few U2 songs (mom’s music drug of choice) and preschool chorus songs that will almost make your ears bleed, peppered with the occasional Broadway musical songs, particularly Mama Mia!  Whatever happens mentally, you must not get attached to a song, because right when you get to the best part, or the chorus, he will most assuredly change it.  Much of our travel time is spent listening to the rotating click of the mouse wheel, as he tries to find a specific song. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” could certainly be his theme, but unfortunately when traveling, it is a favored song I never get the benefit of listening to.

Please don’t lecture me on distracted driving because my eyeballs never lose sight of the road.  But my arms go everywhere.  They assemble and hand out toys, prepare meals and drinks, and fix electronic gadgets.   They find money, and sometimes small scraps of survival-worthy food or candy that gets lodged in cracks and crevices.  This chauffeur’s arms and hands untangle earphones, pull up Angry Birds on the phone for entertaining my son, write words of inspiration, hold drinks, and file credit cards.

These hands once spoke in sign language to a rude driver who was demanding I pull out into oncoming traffic and sacrifice my child just so they could GO.   Most importantly, these arms save our van’s entire system of organization during sudden stops.  Faster than the Bionic Woman, I can keep “the desk’s” ’  papers from sliding to the floor, the food and drinks from spilling, the contents of the dash from spilling and lodging up under the gas or brake pedals, which could ultimately result in a fiery crash of horrific proportions.

I may not be Supermom, but I am the original Octo-Mom!  I confess;  I multitask.  My two arms do the job of eight, hands down (and up, and all around, for that matter!)   I simultaneously can drive, eat, drink, and sing, taking momentary breaths to answer a hundred questions from an inquisitive kindergartner all which start with the word “Why”

I do all this while commandeering electronic gadgets and controls both on-board and external, and even take the occasional phone call.    The tasks are many; the miles pass quickly, yet safely.    I am an organized  symphonic medley of tasks, music, and wisdom as my son and I cruise the miles to get to the beach.    It may sound like a day of ADHD-like hell for you, but for us it’s just typical.

I’ve never gotten a DWD (Driving While Distracted) violation and I’ve never texted and drove (OK, maybe glanced down or hammered out a one word reply but ONLY at a stoplight).  So when you see a mini-van or SUV out there, and it’s pulling just a little bit to the left, most likely it’s not out of alignment.  If  it’s not weaving, they probably aren’t impaired, but it could just be another busy mom inside running Grand Central, while navigating the highway of life.  Say a prayer, and then pass quickly.

A suburban mother’s role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after.  ~Peter De Vries