WHEELS

WHEELS

From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Wheels

What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.

Mother Teresa

There they go again—our neighbors—dashing off in their new convertible Corvette Stingray.

And here I am, like Gladys Kravitz from an old Bewitched episode, peeking through my slightly opened front curtain. But this time, I’m not alone. My husband, Dan, hunches behind me, and though I hear his heavy sighs and understand his longing, I can’t seem to muster the same level of envy.

Maybe it’s because Dan is a car-man. Since he built his first go-cart in junior high, he’s dreamed of owning—not a Corvette—but a pristine muscle car.

A shriek from the kitchen catches my attention, and I dart away to avert a potential snacktime squabble. When I return, Dan is still peering at our neighbors’ empty driveway. Part of me wants to comfort him, tell him to hold on-to his dream and assure him it will happen some day.

Another part wants to remind him that our neighbors had their children a lot earlier than we did. When they were in their early forties, they were sipping champagne at their children’s graduations; we’re still weaning ours from sippy cups.

Those are the facts. I’m not complaining. We both know that for the foreseeable future, all of our “extra” money will be spent, not on trips or cars, but on preschool tuition. Then dance lessons. Then college funds. And though he fantasizes about being carefree, I think Dan is quite happy.

Still, it never hurts to check.

“We have a good life, don’t you agree?” I ask with raised eyebrows.

“I know that,” he grins and turns to hug me. “Did they tell you they were driving down the coast, all the way to LA? Imagine the warm sun on your skin while the wind whips through your hair for an entire day.”

He is teasing me now. I stifle the urge to point out that the back of his head is still peeling from his last encounter with the sun and his hair is no longer plentiful enough to “whip.”

Four-year-old Alexandra emerges from the kitchen to inform us she cannot eat her cereal because it is too “melty” and that her two-year-old sister, Sarah, has made a hat from her peanut-butter toast.

My husband doesn’t move. He just shakes his head and glances at me with a tired, almost pleading look that says, “It’s your turn.”

Sometimes Dan and I wonder what it would be like to have the energy of twenty-five-year-old parents. Other times we forget that we don’t, and suffer the consequences— like last week when Alexandra couldn’t get the hang of cartwheels. She had tried so hard for so long that I felt compelled to demonstrate.

“I’ll show you, sweetheart. I used to do them all the time.” I cleared the room of toys, got a running start and executed a pretty good turn. But, as I landed, my chest constricted, my shoulders throbbed, and my head pounded with the force of a jackhammer.

“Why is your face so red, Mommy?” She touched my flaming cheek. “Don’t worry,” she added before I could speak, “it’s probably just ‘cause you’re old.”

Perhaps I am too old to do cartwheels. But I’m not too old to be a parent. In fact, for me, this is a good time. I am significantly more patient and focused now than I was in my twenties. I’m also comfortable with the conclusion that I cannot have it all, at least not all at once, and I don’t even want to try.

But there are a few things that Dan and I do want. When the time comes, Dan wants to be able to walk his daughters down the aisle, without mechanical assistance. I want to change my grandchildren’s diapers before someone is changing mine. And we would both like to have holiday dinners at our house, and not at “the home.”

And if, while he can still drive, my husband could somehow afford his dream car—a vintage 1970 Buick GSX Stage 3 Ram Air convertible—well, that would be icing on the cake.

Sheree Rochelle Gaudet

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