But Wednesday night, this good girl got a little crazy.
We'd been hanging out with some friends pretty much all day at our house - the kids and I and my friend, Mickey, her two kids and an extra she was sitting. Five-thirty snuck up on us and before I knew it, it was time for me to take Brother to swimming lessons. While rushing around trying to feed everyone, get their shoes on and find Brother's elusive swim trunks that I know I had just seen an hour earlier when I didn't need them, Mickey offers to take my girls to her house while I take Brother to his lesson.
Actually, truth be told, Baby said something to the tune of "I wanna go with you" to Mickey and she couldn't say no. And of course, if you take one girl, you gotta take them both. So, feeling a little guilty that my girls had suckered her into it, I reluctantly agree and tell Mickey I will come pick them up when we're finished.
As promised, Brother and I arrive at Mickey's around 7:20 only to find her just getting there herself after taking everyone to McDonald's and spoiling them senseless. I see my little girls hop out of the van and make a beeline for the house and I'm thinking if they go to Mickey's daughter's room - a veridable Dora shrine - I will never get them out. But alas, I cannot park the car fast enough and they are inside, shoes off, dragging out all the toys before I can protest. Brother follows suit and all the boys are magnetically drawn to the Playstation like drones in a hypnotic trance.
"Hey, guys, we need to get going," I say, but only half-heartedly, as I know my words might as well be bubbles blown to the wind. Mickey, who has spent the better part of the day with five kids, says, "I need a drink. Want one?" She's not listening to me either. She starts putting a Dora video on in the girls' room and I resign myself to the fact that I'm outnumbered and we are obviously staying.
"Nah, I'm fine."
She starts walking to the garage where they keep an extra fridge. I follow. "No, you HAVE to try one of these wine coolers."
Oh, that kind of drink.
She doesn't realize what kind of goody-goody she's asking. I had never even TASTED an alchoholic beverage until I took a tiny sip of champagne on my 27th birthday. Scout's honor. I've tried sips of a few other things before, but I just hate the taste. Everything tastes like cough syrup. Even when they say you can't taste the alchohol, I can taste the alcohol. And beer...I could never get it past my nose.
I giggle. "Hey, I have to drive my kids home."
"Well, don't drink the whole thing." She swings open the refrigerator door to reveal Gatorade, Hi-C juice boxes and Schmirnoff. "Green Apple or Raspberry?"
Aw, a sip won't hurt. Just like every other drink I've tried, I won't like it. "Green Apple." She hands me the chilled bottle, slippery with condensation.
We peek in on the kids who are busy demolishing the bedrooms and I continue to follow her upstairs to the gameroom. She turns on the Jimmy Buffet CD and racks up the balls on the pool table and turns to me with a grin. "If we can't go to the bar, we'll just pretend."
This is not something Supermom would ordinarily do. I mean, it's close to 8:00 and my kids aren't in bed and they need baths and Baby missed her nap and who will watch the kids?
But I'm feeling a little reckless, a little tired of the goody-goody act. And my friend is obviously needing some time with an adult. It's summer. I twist the top off my drink and take a gulp. "Hey!" I'm genuinly surprised. "This is really good!" Yikes. REALLY good.
We spend the next two hours playing pool (another first for me), drinking our fruity drinks (I drank the whole thing) and listening to Jimmy sing about margaritas, cheeseburgers and Mexico all the while wondering if I can really get away with this.
Even though I didn't even feel tipsy, I give myself a little time before hitting the road. Finally, I gather the kids and their leftover Happy Meals and we head home in the dark, way past bedtime. I'm toodling along, windows down, quite happy with my new grown up self. We are almost home, just around the corner from our house, and I see the lights.
That's right. Lights.
Lights of the flashing red and blue variety.
I'm getting stopped.
Now, I'm a rookie. I've never been drunk. Never even buzzed. But wouldn't I know if the drink I had much, much earlier in the evening affected me? Wouldn't I feel something? I wasn't weaving. I wasn't driving over curbs. Did the Stay-At-Home-Mom Gestapo catch wind of my actions this evening and rat me out to the cops?
I reach for my license and insurance verification, suddenly feeling as though I'm being punished for my sins and right now with no makeup and my hair pulled up and my tired, ragged girls in the backseat eating cold McDonald's cheeseburgers barefoot at 10 o' clock at night, I must seem the perfect candidate.
He shines his flashlight in my eyes. "Hello, ma'am, may I see your license and verification, please?" I have it ready and hand it to him, hoping he sees my preparedness as a sign that I'm not a drunken, neglectful parent. His flashlight beam skims over the kids faces, eyes wide and mouths agape, and he drops the stern cop mask for a split second to say hello in a more kid-friendly manner, as I suspect they were wondering if poor ole' ma was gonna be sent to the pokey.
He takes my information back to his car to check me out with dispatch and make sure I'm not a deranged criminal who has kidnapped three kids in a stolen car on a nationwide crime spree wanted in three states for murder and drug trafficing. Or, for all I know, to get the breathalizer. I swear, officer. I've never drank before in my life. I don't keep my kids out after bedtime. I don't feed them McDonald's for dinner on a regular basis. I'm a good mom, I promise.
Luckily, I check out and he issues me a written warning for going 33 in a 25.
As I am signing for my reprimand, he asks me the ages of my kids. I relax a bit, thinking he's being friendly...making small talk. He probably has kids, too. "Eight, five and two," I reply proudly.
Chatty, he is not.
"The five-year-old still needs to be in a booster," he says, in a voice that is a combination of Dudley DoRight and Batman. Authoratative. No nonsense. A tad condescending. "It's for her own safety."
"Okay," I answer, caught off guard that I'm still being corrected. I left the booster in Hubby's car. Bad mom.
"And how tall is he?" he asks, motioning to Brother who is in the passenger seat beside me.
I don't know. I really don't know. "Uh, I don't know." Is it worse to not know how tall your own child is or to pretend you do? "Uh...42 inches?" That's wrong. I know he's taller than that. But I know I heard that number sometime on one of our recent pediatrician visits. Could have been Sister's height. Could have been the number of times I had to tell Baby to leave the Doctor's instruments alone. It was the first number that popped into my head. Bad, bad mom.
"Well, he still needs to ride in the back." He makes eye contact. He is very serious. "Again, it's for his own safety."
Yes, officer. Perhaps you'd like to point out that my toddler's bangs are too long and are hanging in her eyes because she pulled her hairclip out. And maybe we should talk about how bad fast food is and that I'm putting my children at risk for heart disease and obesity by letting them eat it. Did you know my kids didn't get naps today AND they are out late tonight? I also yelled at my son earlier today and let them play in the mud last week. IT WAS ONE DRINK! GET OFF MY CASE!!!!
I nod politely and accept the bright yellow slip as he tells me to have a good night.
I pull around the corner and steer wearily into the drive. I get the kids in the house with no baths, no tooth brushing, barely even in their pajamas and put them to bed. Brother, in fact, slept in his clothes.
Just say no to wine coolers, kids. It only leads to trouble.