OPINION: Riding Shotgun — Everyone Else is Doing It

Teenage girl looking back from passenger front seat of car

“Everyone else is doing it.”

I hear it in my sleep. In fact, if I had a dime for every time my girls cashed in on this superb little slogan, I’d very likely just have a big pile of dimes that I would never feel like taking to a Coinstar because let’s face it, change can be heavy, man.

Anyway, I’m never really sure who all these “everyones” are or if they’re actually doing all of these things my daughters insist that they’re doing but they seem to be as abundant as loose couch coins and as frequent as my propensity for losing my purse (a full 24 hours this time and it was hanging in the hallway) along with those few remaining brain cells I seem to have misplaced sometime between my water breaking and blowing out (a whole lotta 40) candles.

So when my younger daughter starts to slide into the front seat, I’m A) not surprised, and B) ready for an enjoyable car ride home because typically (about 364 days out of the year), I’m a ‘yes’ girl. Like Ado Annie and so many before me, I’m conflict-avoidant, passively permissive, and can’t say ‘no.’ Everything ends in a question. If you don’t mind, would it be okay, if/when you get a chance, no problem, no worries, just this one time … Yes, please, walk all over me and expect me to enjoy it because the last thing I want is to hear you whine, cry or exhibit any signs of emotional distress ever.

And can I just say/sing, “Oh what a beautiful morning” it is as we drive away from my “unfair, so unfair, very unfair, totally ridiculous and not cool, not okay, embarrassing … am I on drugs” suggestion that she sit in the backseat where she’s only sat every day for, let’s see, her entire life but suddenly can’t sit because everyone else is sitting in the front seat.

But, “I’m not everyone else’s mother. I’m your mother,” I say, waving apologetically to my friend, who I’m convinced I’ve mildly insulted in the process with this whole safety discussion, which wasn’t really a discussion as much as it was me wavering, making a lot of half-baked excuses then mumbling something about having to Google it in order to avoid saying that dreaded word: no. No. No.

“For the four millionth time, you cannot sit in the front seat.”

“Why?”

A million reasons come to mind. None of them seem favorable to the answer she’s obviously looking for because anything short of “yes. Yes. Yes” will surely prolong this future litigator’s litany of long-winded and mildly amusing, somewhat anecdotal affidavits for riding shotgun all in the name of, um … she’s going to Middlebrook this year and did I honestly think she was going to get out of the back seat — THE BACK SEAT! — at drop off?  She doesn’t even know how we share the same blood. Am I not getting this?

Yes, the bus is looking better and better with each passing day.

“What if you used a booster in the front? How about that?” (Like I offered her a sippy and told her to look at her board book).

“I’m calling the police,” I tell her and her spine straightens. Literally, it’s like she’s grown a full two inches. “They’ll know. They’ll know if it’s safe.”

It buys me some time and a cup of coffee that I actually go back to Starbucks for because, in that moment of moments, those five long minutes that feel like five hours, I want to indulge myself for being strong and almost saying no even though I’m paying for it so very dearly right now, even though it doesn’t feel worth the long term benefits for the short term suffering.

And you know what I find really comical in all of this (even though I don’t think of it at the time), it’s all I can do to hold back from practically ripping that iced, oat milk latte from that poor girl’s hand and downing it like it’s my last supper because, Jesus, I say yes to everything, and I mean everything. I mean there are probably children, right here in Wilton, who are saying at this very minute, “But the Kirschner kids can…”

After all this, “There’s really no law regarding it,” the nice officer tells me. Just a CDC suggestion, another $4.25 for Starbucks on my Visa and a brief reprieve from what I can only describe as a baseball-bat-to-the-back-of-my-neck tension headache.

I thank him, hang up the phone and realize I’m being watched.

From the backseat, she asks, “So it’s a yes, then? I can sit in the front?”

In the front seat, what I hear is, “Can I take your keys, drive your car, drag race it through the center of town and maybe to Atlantic City with my boyfriend, Clyde … the one I’ve known for all of three days but am sure, so beyond sure, he’s the one. We’re in love. No, I don’t know his last name. Why is that relevant? Why are you asking me that? Why would I go in the liquor cabinet? A lock? That seems a little egregious, don’t you think? Um, paranoid much? Does Clyde have a motorcycle? Maybe. Did I ride on it? Why wouldn’t I? What do you have against motorcycles? Where’s your purse? You lost it again? Did you check the hallway? I need your credit card and what’s all this loose change doing in here…

“Mom? Mom, are you even listening to me? I said, can I sit in the front seat? Can I? Mom?”

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.