Sunday, January 22, 2012

He is the keymaster, and I am the ineffective gatekeeper

Were we discussing the terrible twos? Ah, yes..

Winter came late to Maryland, and just as it became urgent (in my mind) to get in the car quickly each evening, it became urgent in little G's mind that he hold my car keys. So imagine, if you will, a typical evening as we leave daycare: on my mind are dinner, and getting home to E and her nanny within a reasonable window of when I said to expect us home; the 20-degree cold front and blustery winds; keeping L's attention so that she doesn't wander off; and my hands undoubtedly filled with art projects, half-eaten food, and G's chubby little wrist.

So that's when he decided that he needs to unlock the car.

In a way, it's gentlemanly and sweet, like when the valet opens the door for you and inclines his head with a broad smile and doesn't at all mention the empty snack bags, ground cheerios, and discarded socks that cover the floor of your car. Now let's be honest, the only valets I see with any regularity are urban garage parking attendants from those lots that triple park the cars all day long and move them around like puzzle pieces, your car coming back eight miles more driven than when you left it to park a few hours earlier. But we can pretend a parking attendant is a valet, right? It's my glamorous life.

Now G, brutely strong though he is, he cannot actually open a car door. But he can point the key toward the door and push the button to unlock it. And so he does, and it is chivalrous. He always goes to the front passenger door first, and points and pushes. Mama, he indicates. And I open the door and dump all day's worldly possessions from my arms onto the seat. I close the door. He waits patiently for me, and proceeds to the next door.

Ya-ya, he indicates as he points the key and pushes the button, and as that is how he pronounces L's name, she opens her door and climbs in the back seat.

"Whose door is next?" I ask, and he raises his hand and grins. We hold hands and walk around the back of the car to his door. I wait as he points, pushes. I lift him in and buckle his straps.

He holds out his hand expectantly. Mama. Eeys. He expects the keys one more time. I place them in his hands and from inside the car, he points the keys to my door. He locates the button, pushes. In exchange for a high-five I get my keys back, crawl backwards out of the back seat and open my own door and sit down in the driver's seat. Only then can we drive, and do not even think of any scenario in which he doesn't unlock each door individually.

And now, a confession:

all those button pushes are on the wrong key.

G loves the fat VW key fob. But I drive a Dodge.

Every evening while I juggle art projects and backpacks and afternoon snacks half-eaten and hats refused for heads and the hands of my children, I have to quickly and subtly unlock my car before turning over my keys to the key tyrant. He can push buttons to his heart's content but they actually have no effect on my already-unlocked car.

It's the only way to keep the peace.

Which is fine enough, I guess, except last week the rest of us were in the basement and G got hold of my keys and started pushing his favorite buttons and set off the panic alarm on the lovely husband's car, which was not muffled in the garage but parked on the driveway for all the neighborhood to hear. We came upstairs to hear it blaring, but we don't know how long it had been going. Oops.

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