We had to get up early to get the replacement retainer fitted because he had lost the last one so long ago and had either forgotten to tell me or been too afraid to tell me and we were both in denial about it. Now he needed to be fitted with a replacement retainer because it had been months since he had actually worn it and his teeth were slipping. You might want to console me and say it's not my fault, but it is. Everything is my fault. Not a pity party. Just stating facts.
I drag him out of bed at the usual time ("But Mom, it's a late day!") to get the new retainer fitted. I have to miss work to do stuff like this. Before, I could always just drop everything and make it happen. But now I have to take half-days off and miss meetings and deadlines and let my work-team down because my family-team's needs come first. I resent them for needing me. And then I feel guilty for resenting them.
We slam our doors shut and I start the car. He looks at me sideways with a sleepy eyeroll. I can tell he hasn't bathed or changed his clothes, but I don't say anything. I'm a horrible mom. But not always. Sometimes I'm a mean mom. Sometimes I insist on chores and homework and personal hygiene. A mean mom and a good parent. Sometimes I'm a nice mom and a horrible parent. Really what I am is a tired mom who is kind of nice and kind of mean and kind of horrible and kind of not.
We get to the orthodontist. The Gamer signs in at the little desk and waits on the bench to be called. I sit down in the waiting room, mentally slapping my forehead, as I always do, that I didn't bring something to do with me while I wait. Nothing to do but flip through the ridiculous magazines, which I loathe, except classy ones like The Atlantic and Harpers. Sitting with nothing to do makes me feel antsy and wasteful. I should relish this kind of moment, but I never do. I resolve to sit quietly and try to empty my mind. Pffft.
The ortho comes out and says that they took the molds for the retainer but it won't be ready right away. Can we come back tomorrow and pick it up? They don't seem to understand that I'm working now. I can't just show up whenever the way I used to do. No. I took the morning off so let's do this thing. Fine. Come back in an hour and it will be ready.
Yes! Mental fist pump. I turn to The Gamer. Just enough time to go out to breakfast. We head to the car.
"Have you ever been to Mitch's Cafe?" I say. "No? You've never had the banana coffeecake? Let's go remedy that right now." I look at my watch. Mitch's is all the way across town. If we are efficient, we can get breakfast, return for the retainer and then get to school before the late day beginning bell at 9:30. Challenge accepted.
But snags began conspiring against us. I get stuck on a narrow street behind a garbage truck that wouldn't yield for several blocks. I miss three lights in a row that were supposed to be timed together. I forget where the turn for Mitch's was and have to double back, missing another light. And so on. Finally, one last light stands between us and the restaurant. At the train tracks. Dun dun. Dun dun. Did that sound like Law and Order?
The light turns yellow just as we approach it and then the clanging starts and the red lights flash and the gates start coming down to prevent dumbshits from getting stuck on the tracks and having to be rescued by Hancock which was a stupid movie but it's always fun to see Will Smith.
Blinking back tears (surprise!), I roll down the window and wait for the officer to make his way up to our car. I get the necessary papers together. Out of the corner of my eye, I see The Gamer mentally rubbing his hands together with a sly smile on his face. Even as the adrenaline-soaked thoughts tumble through my brain (I think I can do traffic school when's the last time I did that now show The Gamer how it's done if there's any chance I'll just get a warning no one ever just gets a warning only in the movies), I see him predicting what is going to happen next.
"Do you know why I pulled you over?" The officer peers into the car, sizing up what kind of reckless scofflaws he might be dealing with. "Yes, I do, officer." I take a deep breath. "I sped up through the intersection at the train tracks which I have never done in the twenty years I have lived in this town because it is horribly dangerous but I'm taking my son to breakfast because we are waiting for his retainer to be made from the molds they took at the orthodontist's so that I can get him to school before the late day bell at 9:30." I figure I'd better cover all the bases. The right to remain silent be damned. I have never invoked my right to remain silent in my almost half-century on the planet and I wasn't about to start now.
"Thank you, officer," I hear my self saying in a calm and business-like manner. "I really appreciate you not giving me a ticket. I promise it will never happen again. A stupid mistake and I really won't ever try that again." I can practically *hear* my son's eyes rolling around in his head but I don't look at him, I won't look at him, not until the officer is gone and we are finally safe.
"Well," I finally say to him. "I think we have just had what is known as a 'teachable moment.' What do you think the point was of what just happened?"
"That you can break the rules and get away with it," he says.
(Terrific, I think. Fantastic.)
"Well, I think the point was that the authorities look favorably on you if you acknowledge your mistakes. Getting out in front of it is really important."
"Yeah, mom. It's also called 'kissing ass' and you rocked that pretty hard."
I swing my head towards him in a kind of pleasant shock. "You think I handled that well?"
"Hell's bells, Mom," he says. They have such a delicious sense of irony, my kids. "You talked your way out of a ticket. No one ever really does that. Only in the movies. It was awesome."
We head into the cafe for some delicious amazing motherfucking banana coffeecake. We'll get the retainer and carry on with the day's routine but we had a moment. This sometimes mean and sometimes nice and sometimes horrible but always tired and definitely well-intentioned mom and her grubby and vulnerable and hilarious son. Had a moment. For serious. Hell's bells.