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A Lesson Learned and Not Learned

A ‘daddy day’ mid-morning park rendezvous became delayed by what should have been a five minute stop at the DMV to renew my four-day-over-due license plates. The ‘quick’ errand unfortunately stretched into a half-hour fiasco.

The motor vehicle bureau satellite office in my zip code exudes a stuffy unfriendly atmosphere, the tight ten by fifteen foot waiting area is lined with twelve or so dusty chairs, the worn dirty carpet smells of mildew and the signage browning with age or tar leftover from an era when public smoking in government run offices was customary. The staff suited the environment. The place hadn’t changed, personnel included, since I was sixteen.

Our luck, the computers were down that day and each renewal was taking forever. When we arrived, there were only two people in line ahead of me. I instructed Olivia and Hailey to grab some reading material from the rack of vehicle literature near the entrance and sit quietly. Both girls sat for a good five minutes flipping through driving manuals and Auto Traders.

Hailey’s nickname is the Tazmainian Toddler. She can spin through a room, arms grabbing whatever is in reach, demolishing order in the blink of the eye. Her gross-motor skills are, well, she can motor and when she is diving from couch to armchair to love seat or climbing metal rungs at a playground intended for five and up it is gross to watch. Hailey was getting restless sitting calmly thumbing through road safety brochures so she revisited the pamphlet shelf looking for something new. She started to fling the brochures one by one frisbee style toward her sister giggling with each throw. Big sis became delighted with this new game and rushed over to join her. Olivia, the self proclaimed Preschooler Princess characteristically is mild mannered her movements are precariously delicate although at times she can incite or synchronize with Hailey’s spasmodic and destructive force. In a mater of minutes the information rack emptied, the Tazmainian twister touched-down and the floor of the waiting area was completely littered.

Several more people had come in during the cyclone and one elderly lady seemed enchanted by Olivia’s and Hailey’s behavior, even I was somewhat captivated and satisfied, in no hurry to stop them. ‘Is it wrong to allow my children to raze the place?’ A mutual yet restrained sediment residing in myself as a result of impatientness with the service from the inhospitable government workers. Yes, it was wrong but I let them continue.

Hailey took off her shoes and Olivia shed hers too. The head-bands came off next. I’m thinking, ‘they are going to strip down naked right here’ I had to stop the striptease, “Girls, you are going to have to put your shoes back on so we can go to the park!” Olivia quickly complied and the older lady creakily helped Hailey with her shoes. “Tell the nice lady thank you!” Parent-speaking, ‘Why couldn’t I just say thanks.’

Hailey knew she had an audience and ran up to every person who was waiting, invading their personal space, “(H)ello” with a big grin. While running about she slipped and fell on one of the pamphlets, hopped up and animatedly dusted her butt off amusing the line of what was now a half dozen people.

The guy in front of me, who had hastily parked and ran from his car to the DMV office door to get in line ahead of me and the girls, finished his renewal and turned to go rolling his ankle on Hailey’s yellow head-band crunching it under-foot, the arrogant suit didn’t stop to apologize.

It was finally my turn so I spread all my paperwork on the counter, just then realizing I left my auto insurance card in the glove box. The administrator didn’t ask for it, a sublime implication that she wanted me and my children out of there rapido and she hurriedly glossed over the documents, I probably could have just handed her cash without any inspections or tax receipts at all. I was finished within a couple minutes and as I was paying for my new tags a dreary attendant magically appeared from an interior office, probably to check out all the commotion. She whispered to her co-worker, “Look at what they did to the place.” ‘Yes I am raising horrible little menacing children’

The comment left me feeling ashamed of myself and made me realize my lapse in parental responsibility. I exploited my children’s natural rambunctiousness to expediate a dull mundane process (and the government personnel obliged me). I also failed at teaching good manners in a public place. I waned to say something to the DMVers in my defense, ‘they’re only two and three’ but as I looked at the devastation I had no justification and no excuses. “We’ll get it cleaned up,” is all I could say.


 Originally psted on Babycenter.com 10/11/06

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