This morning, Addison was playing with his toy train. “Yeah, Percy,” he crowed (for some reason, the “Thomas” train pieces all have names), “Percy found a parking place!”
Now I realize that, to an outsider, this might seem odd. So, here’s a little context. We live in a part of Los Angeles that has, shall we say, issues with the proportion of vehicles to available real estate. It’s not a huge deal but does mean that, occasionally–okay, most of the time–one has to drive around for a few minutes to find a spot to park. This really isn’t a problem for most of us. For my mom, however, it is. Her fixation on parking started when she came to help out before AJ was born, through the five months she was here and picked right back up when she moved here permanently seven months ago. Parking drives her life. She doesn’t just complain after she has struggled to find a spot. She plans around finding a spot, anticipates the angst of spot-less-ness, avoids doing things that require her to move her car (and not just on street cleaning days, when street parking is halved).
She also drives AJ quite a bit.
Now, I find the Running Parking Commentary annoying. Of course, it can be a pain to drive around and around when all you want to do is get in the house and, say, pee. Or to find a space three blocks from the house when you have grocery bags with ice cream and a sleeping toddler in the back. Still, as I have noted to my mother on more than one occasion, this is where we live. The parking situation is not going to change. Putting energy into being frustrated about it every time you even think about using a car helps no one and ties up mind space that could be occupied by other, more meaningful things. But, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and so I find myself trying not to become obsessed with her parking obsession.
Of course, it is easy to see these kinds of foibles in others while our own obsessions and compulsions go unnoticed. These are the things that drive people quietly mad, consume our thoughts, drive our actions in subtle and insidious ways.
I don’t have any of these, of course. Or didn’t. Until I had a child. Kids are great mirrors. They blithely reflect what would otherwise go unnoticed in our characters and habits. Sometimes this is frightening and shameful and sad. Other times it is funny. Sometimes both. Like the way AJ says “Stop it, right now!” When I don’t do what he wants. When he does it it’s a little hilarious. Still, I have started hearing my own words, my own tone, and feeling pretty crappy about how I talk sometimes.
Last week, at the fire station, where we are regulars, he was allowed to sit up on the driver’s seat in the big fire engine. One of the firefighters was with AJ as he asked about the controls and pretended to drive, giving his usual stream of conscious narration. I stood below and off to the side, not really paying much attention (like I said, this wasn’t the first time, I already have the cute photos). Suddenly, the firefighter laughed and turned to me. “He says he is finding a parking place,” he said, shaking his head. I rolled my eyes.
My son is obsessed with parking. He is also easily frustrated, frequently makes demands rudely, and clenches his jaw when angry. He is slightly compulsive about wiping the table after he eats and sorting his toys. This is what I notice. I am sure there are more things that I don’t. I hope that some of this is about him being two and not my being a really crappy example but I am realistic.
I just hope that I can be open enough about my shame and struggle against being owned by these flaws, teach him skills for noticing and gently correcting mistakes, show him that accountability is worth the effort.
And that life is more than a good parking place.