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An Empty Bladder and a Full Tank of Gas

Published on: December 30, 2013

carillustration_cropBeing a good parent sometimes requires a bit of trickery. I’m not just talking about Santa or the Tooth Fairy. I’m talking about strategizing. I have learned that scheming is a helpful skill to add to my bag of tricks. Sometimes, you need to outsmart these little whippersnappers by any means necessary. This past week, I used a ploy that was born out of a conversation with a friend this past winter.

I had been complaining talking about how my husband wants to go skiing every damn single weekend. My poor victim friend was nodding along and patiently waiting for me to finish my rant thought. She paused for a minute and then told me that as a teenager, some of the best conversations she ever had with her parents were in the back of the car to and from the ski hill. It was a long drive, she remembered, and you were trapped with nothing to do but talk.

I tucked that conversation away in the back of my mind.

Now onto the scheming part . . .

My older son has been having a bit of a rough time for the past few months but wouldn’t admit to me that anything was bothering him. My carefully crafted questions were met with a grunt & a shrug of the shoulders. “Everything is fine,” he repeated over and over.

Ok, you want to lock it up like a vault . . . fine. I’ll do the work-around. I asked his friends’ mothers if they knew of anything. They assured me that they hadn’t heard anything and told me that everything was probably fine. No luck there.

But something was still bothering him, and I knew it. Month after month went by with nothing from him about what had happened or why he was upset.

And then, we were in the car together the other day. I had just dropped my younger son off at camp and he would be there for the next three hours. Emmett and I were heading off to the vet for our dog and had no other specific plans.

That’s when it hit me . . . trapped. My friend’s comment about being trapped in the car with her parents came floating up through the mists, and I knew that this was my chance. I had him! I finally knew how to unlock the vault

I brought it up again. He said everything was fine. There were no problems. This time, I really persisted. “Something is bothering you, buddy, and it has been for a while. Please just tell me what’s up.”

He looked out the window and even through the rear view mirror I could see he was upset.

I knew it!!

Still, it took a long time for him to spill.

First, I used my Bluetooth to call the vet so he could hear me cancel our appointment. Now he knew I meant business.

Then, I told him my plan. “Here’s the deal . . . I’ve got an empty bladder and a full tank of gas. You’re trapped and I’m not stopping this car until you tell me what is going on.”

It took nearly half an hour but he eventually began to tell me. All of the things that had been bothering him for months finally came out. I drove to the park and we found a quiet bench. We sat in the sun and talked for a long time and I hugged him and thanked him for telling me. We tried to come up with some ideas about how to help him figure things out.

I think he felt better. I hope so. I am certain that I did.

It was a tiny triumph! It was a real moment of success on this long road of parenting.

I share it with you in case you ever need it. Add it to your bag of parenting tricks. I hope that it works for you as well as it worked for me. Just remember that unlocking that vault can sometimes take a while so make sure you use the bathroom first!

stephanieolson1Stephanie Olson is a mother of two boys who lives and writes in Seattle. She believes her golden rule in parenting “Just wipe it off on your pants!” will be her epitaph someday. It has gotten us through pretty well thus far! Read more of Stephanie's work on her blog, Ma Swell Vie.

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