Have you ever been pulled over on a five-lane interstate with a sleeping baby in the back? I haven’t… until today.
Before this unfortunate encounter, I spent an entire two hours in my car, putting my toddler to sleep and then making sure he stayed asleep. He needed it bad. The previous two hours were spent at the doctor’s office, during his normal nap-time. He was so tired that he was overtired. He fought the car seat, only to give in to his need for rest about two minutes into me driving.
Parents, if you’re reading this, you can probably relate. Even the most environmentally friendly person will let their car emit toxic fumes into the earth’s atmosphere, if it’s the only way to ensure their child’s sleep.
I pulled into the parking lot of a thrift shop, which I’d hoped to visit once the little one awoke refreshed. While he slept, I tried to read my library book, but he jostled as I picked it up because of the crinkly plastic that’s so inconveniently taped to the book’s cover. The little man started waking after 45 minutes – too early – I drove around the strip mall, slowly going over the speed bumps, being cautious of pedestrians and one-way’s.
I jerked around for the up-teenth time, and saw that his tired eyes were closed again. A rare shaded tree became my new resting spot. Unable to read my book (because of the crinkle paper) or sleep (because I just can’t in cars), I caught up with a few things on my phone. Another 45 minutes passed and he started waking again. I drove around the parking lot more, this time giving up the idea of going shopping as it was getting toward rush hour.
When I saw he was back asleep, I decided to head toward home. I got a little lost at first, but eventually found the freeway. Of course, it was already jam-packed with lines of cars. I had time to kill, but the day’s headache was turning into a migraine and the thought of pulling into my driveway never sounded so glorious. Minutes passed as I changed lanes from right to left, working my way toward the fast(er) moving carpool lane. A second after I finally made it into the carpool lane, I passed a police car. He was hiding in the ditch. I passed him at 45 miles per hour in a 60 mph zone. He came into the carpool lane immediately after me. My heart sank; I knew I was doomed.
“Whyyy?!?!?” I cried in my head, as panic crept into my chest. “But… my baby is still asleep! I planned for him to sleep for at least another 30 minutes till I got home!” Maybe the cop was pulling someone else over? Of course I knew he turned the lights on for me.
“It *is* legal for me to be in the carpool lane, right??? I mean, I know he’s only a baby, but he still counts as a person right?!?” (Seriously, I had always wondered about this. I guess today was my day to officially find out.)
I pulled over to the left shoulder as soon as I could. Stress and anxiety came upon me. I felt like bursting into tears, while at the same time, feeling like an angry mama bear, ready to yell at anyone who dared disturb their cub’s slumber. The officer approached my car. I rolled down my window, contemplating whether or not I should greet him with a big “shhhh!”
My meek self took the reigns and I kept silent. He calmly said, “Never mind, you didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t see your child in the back seat there. I’m not even going to take your driver’s license. Drive safe and have a good day.” He then turned and went back to his car, while I sat there in mine. Cars sped by on my right, making the frame of my car tremble. The shaking matched the way my brain felt: uneasy; disturbed. I didn’t even have to jerk around to check on my son. His whines told me he was up for good.
I was relieved that I wasn’t “in trouble,” but I felt defeated by the fateful event. Go figure this would happen. I worked hard to make my little one stay asleep for two whole hours, only to have him wake up by an accidental mistake. I mean, I suppose there could be worse ways for him to wake up before his nap ended… We could have been in an real accident. I’m thankful we weren’t.
But still. I’m a tired, worn out parent, who is just trying to do her best. It was a hard day, sitting through over two hours of appointments. I stupidly used the fragrant soap dispenser in the clinic’s bathroom, which immediately gave me a headache. I was grumpy.
My butt was numb and my back ached from sitting still for so long. The heels of my feet were rug-burned from rubbing against the floor of the car. To have my nap-time work interrupted for no reason feels nothing less than unfair. You bet I cried on the way home – out of exhaustion, out of desperation, out of disbelief, out of relief. I passed off toys and random things to Gunther as he cried periodically on the drive home – letting me know he was just as cranky as I was.
In the end, we made it home safe and sound. And I was right. The sight of my driveway never did look quite so glorious.
I guess this is why people sport “Baby on Board” stickers.
P.S. Thanks Mr. Cop for being so nice. I’m not mad at you. I just have a chronic illness that makes me extra stressed and has me in constant pain, among a boatload of other things. I hate driving. And I’m tired.