Dear Steering Wheel,
You did nothing to deserve the abuse I just put you through. I’m the one who made you drive me and my three-year-old to his second day of preschool. I told you which way to go and you listened.
You listened when we got in the car and I desperately tried to act happy and excited for the sake of my son. You listened when we practiced how we would say goodbye when we got to his classroom. “Bye, Dimitri! I’ll see you soon!” I said. “Bye Mommy! I’ll see you soon!” my son happily responded. You listened when I explained how happy and proud I would be if he didn’t cry when I dropped him off today. You saw him become excited and proud himself, that he would please Mommy so much. That Mommy would be “sooooo happy!” You heard me explain to him that we would play and talk about our day when I picked him up from school. You saw my little guy’s face light up, and yes even you, Steering Wheel, started to believe that I was saying, doing, and reacting perfectly to make everything run smoothly today. You took us the long way to school so that we could go over four choo-choo tracks before we got there. You heard me promise him that we would go over more when school was over. And finally, you lead us to our destination.
You heard my son urgently ask me if I was going to stay with him at school when he saw the building. You saw the tears start to well in his eyes. You heard him start to cry — hard — when he heard my answer: “No. Mommys and Daddys go to work and kids go to school.” You heard me repeat everything that had worked so well on the drive over, but this time it only made him scream louder and cry harder. You felt my hands tighten around you as we waited for the doors of the school to open so we could go in. You heard my breath become shorter and quicker, then longer and deeper as I desperately tried to calm myself before I said something that would only make it worse. “Nobody else in your class cries,” I tried. “Aren’t you a big boy?” I asked, knowing as soon as I said this, the guilt would come. I squeezed you harder as I thought, Every child is different and reacts differently to situations; and here I am trying to make him feel guilty for something I know is MY fault- MY guilt. I hadn’t prepared him for this, and you knew that I knew it.
You sat there, steadily, as I got out of the car over the sound of near violent screams, cries, and kicks and tried to get my frantic three-year-old out of his car seat. You watched me shut the door and nearly drag him across the parking lot. You saw an empathetic mom near the curb walk up to us and try to help. You could see it was not working. You saw both of us finally walk through the doors of the school, and a moment later, only myself walk back out. You thought you were in the clear – that the worst was over.
I opened the car door and sat down behind you. It was quiet. But it was the kind of quiet that still feels loud. The kind of quiet where your ears are still throbbing from the chaos that just happened but somehow the peacefulness makes them throb harder. I was still trying to be calm- but my little boy was not there anymore, and it was just too quiet. I hit you. Hard. Not once or twice, but maybe ten times. Violently. Quickly. I squeezed my hand into a fist and banged it on the top of you until it felt like my hand was going to break. I stopped, took a deep breath and hated myself more for reacting so uncontrollably. I wasn’t mad at you. I wasn’t mad at my son, or even myself for that matter. I was mad at life. That life is hard. That having a child is hard and that no matter what, there will be moments like these. I collected myself the best that I could and I told you to take me back home. Then you listened while I turned up the music to near ear-piercing volume because you knew I was just trying to silence my own thoughts.
You didn’t deserve any of this. But you were there when I needed you.
You did not judge me or tell anyone how poorly I reacted – you simply took the abuse. Thank you.
I know that this is just one of the many places you will lead us in our lives. Some places we will want to go; others we won’t. But you will lead us there anyway. And I know the day will come when you will lead us to my son’s college or wedding ceremony, and I will wish with all my soul that I were back behind you while you lead us to his preschool. It will be at these times that I may need you again, and I know you will be there. And although I may squeeze you, or cry on you, or even pound you with my fists, I promise that even in hard moments like these, when I am overwhelmed with the sadness of letting go, I will always do my best to try to enjoy the ride.
Carrie Jeschelnig is a stay-at-home mother of one, aspiring to be a writer. She writes essays relating to motherhood, free verse poetry and children’s picture books. Currently, she is working on creating her writer’s platform by constructing a website and, eventually, joining the rest of the world on social media. When she is not writing, her hobbies include reading and rescuing old, discarded books which she promptly finds a forever-home for in her bookshelves.