I'm going to make a confession. Ever since Ellie has been born I've been doing something that I'm pretty sure falls outside the realm of what most people consider normal behavior. Actually, there are a lot of things I do that fall outside that realm. Examples include "Breakfast Cabaret" and "Nothing But Cheese Tuesdays".
But this is a bad kind of not normal that has been terrorizing me for the past year and it seems to be getting worse. Ok, here goes... please read without judging.
Every time I see a dangerous or potentially harmful situation, my brain immediately puts Ellie in the middle of that situation and I have a mini panic attack.
Watching Mad Men, when Don Draper's Dad got kicked in the face by a horse I cried myself to sleep because I couldn't get the image of Ellie being kicked in the face by a horse out of my mind. What if we're at a petting zoo and I'm not paying attention? Or God forbid she becomes a vet?
Every day when we walk to the pool we have to cross over a small lagoon and I am terrified by the thought of her falling out the back of the wagon, rolling 10 feet across the bridge and into the lagoon. I almost have to literally shake the thought out of my head.
And last night I noticed our oven has a self-cleaning feature. I know, I know - I don't cook but the ONE time I used it some cheese dripped off of the frozen pizza and who wouldn't choose the self-cleaning feature over taking the rack out and wiping it up with a paper towel? But the door locked and it got really hot, and all I could think of was what if burglars broke into the house and put Ellie into the oven and turned it on and I couldn't open it to get her out?!! Aaaahhh!
With every word I type I can feel my inner panic ticking up a notch, as well as the voices in your heads acknowledging that this is indeed NOT normal and clicking "unfollow".
Is she ever going to get kicked in the face by a horse? Probably not. And I've got her strapped in so tight to that wagon that her toenails are purple by the time we leave the driveway. And, as my Mother-In-Law found out the hard way, I keep the house alarm on at all times. Burglars would have about 20 seconds before the police show up. Not really enough time to grab a baby and put her in the oven, especially when I unleash my mad Karate Kid leg sweeping skills.
Anyhoo, to put it in a nutshell, I am petrified something bad is going to happen to Ellie. And I know that any of the above scenarios, or the thousands of others that rattle around in my head, have very slim possibilities of coming to fruition.
But what does have a real possibility of coming to fruition? That we will careen off the highway and perish in a ball of flames because I can't wait five minutes to return an email about a weekend trip to the lake that's happening in two months.
In my previous life at the advertising agency, I looked at the time in my car as a great way to catch up on emails and texts. I justified it as multi-tasking but I can't tell you how many times I would look up and be in a different lane. Or crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
I knew it was dangerous, so I promised myself that when I got pregnant I would ban texting and emailing from the driver's seat altogether. But that little ding of a new message is like a drug, and when I got my Blackberry a couple of years ago it was like I was upgrading from pot to heroin. I would tell myself that it might be an emergency, like if a family member died or Nick was getting attacked by wild dogs a text would be an appropriate form of communication.
Texts and emails are never emergencies.
Then, I promised myself that once the baby came I was really going to do it - no texting, emailing or dialing while I was driving. But I'm telling you, it's like a drug and like any good addict I made excuses until I relapsed. And actually with a baby it's gotten worse, because I'll do things like the Jason Bourne backwards-facing front seat to back seat nose swipe, or search the backseat for a toy that she's dropped and crying for.
My wake-up call came yesterday when I was dialing the phone and looked up and had to swerve because I almost drove into the lagoon that I was so afraid of Ellie falling into from her wagon.
At that moment I decided that I'm going to make my car a distraction-free zone. That's it - I'm going cold turkey. I even took Oprah's No Phone Zone pledge online - I'm number 365,684.
Here's my promise, to myself and my family.
I promise NOT to do the following from the driver's seat while the car is in drive:
Take my cell phone out of my purse for any reason, including to text, email, dial or map my location
Turn around and face the back seat, unless I hear choking or mooing
Gawk at billboards, accidents, prostitutes or anything else interesting on the side of the road
Dig in the console for a CD, even if I'm having a massive Snoop craving
Eat anything that requires a utensil
Balance my checkbook
Yes, I have done each of these things.
And, you know how I feel about people pushing their causes and beliefs onto other people, but just know that if you hit my car while texting then I will blog about you until my fingers fall off.
If you would like to take Oprah's pledge with me, click here.
And rest assured there's one more alert driver on the road.