One of the most significant changes that came with parenthood was the demise of my ability to travel to a “second location”. I had attended college in a neighborhood that was not safe (understatement) and have always been an urban dweller and I regularly attended public safety workshops where I learned important skills like yell “fire” instead of “help” since more people will respond to a potential threat to their own safety than taking the risk to assist someone else in trouble. I also learned to be prepared to poke someone’s eye out. Which, honestly, may be good advice, but I’m not sure what it would take to be inspired to act on it. But, the advice that seemed both strongest in message and reason was to do whatever it took not to be taken to a “second location”. Apparently, even if someone has a gun to your head, statistically, you have a better chance of surviving the assault if you run or try to get away than if you get into a car to be taken to a second location for further violation. Yikes! Who wants to think about these things?
I started thinking more about the “second location” when I first became a mother. It’s a mistake I made a few times before I realized that my days of multi-tasking at multiple locations was over. It starts out innocently enough. Say, you are on your way back from the playground and you remember that you are running out of milk. So, your inner mind-voice says, “That’s OK, we can just stop by the grocery store on our way back from the playground.” Except, it turns out that your baby was holding on to some explosive poop and really needed to nurse for an hour–or else. Your baby was counting on playground and then home. There was no way for you to know this because you can’t really consult with your baby and they might seem kind of tired and zonked out in the back seat. It appears that your baby can withstand a 15-minute or less pop into the grocery store. Sometimes, you park the car and go as far as reaching into the car seat to remove the baby and they start to scream or tantrum and you can realize the error of your ways before you make it to the interior of your second location of choice. Then you just re-buckle and drive away thinking that it is likely you can sneak out later or send someone else or just bloody do without the milk. But, in many cases, your baby lets you put them into the grocery cart and away you go to second location hell. It’s like the Hotel California—you can check-out any time you like, but you can NEVER leave.
The next thing you know, baby has an explosive poop and you find yourself dangling them over your lap while you change their diaper in some restroom most recently used for a hobo’s sink bath, but you feel confident because you remembered a diaper and a change of clothes and you’ve got this! So, 20-minutes later you emerge from the bathroom victorious with a cranky, but clean and dry baby and you are back on your way to the dairy aisle. At this point, your cranky baby loses their marbles and just starts screaming, which, you figure is OK because you are within arm’s reach of the gallon of milk and then all you need to do is check-out and you can get back into the car and home before the REAL meltdown. Again, you’ve got this! Now you’ve got a crying baby and a bag of poopy clothes and a gallon of milk and you get into the shortest line right behind someone who only has one or two little things left on the counter and you are sure that your turn to check-out is imminent. Score! Except, that person needs a price check because they are sure they were over-charged for something and the manager needs to be called. It takes them 10-minutes to figure out that the charges are correct, but still…….you feel like you are close to checking out. At this point, you look over and realize that your baby has grabbed a few chocolate bars and scattered some SUN news magazines all over the floor. The chocolate on their face leads you to believe that maybe they have gnawed through one of the wrappers, but you don’t think a little chocolate will kill your baby. Until you see that it is a Reese’s and you were kind of hoping to keep peanut butter out of their diet for a while, but, you know, they are still breathing at this point so maybe that’s just not a concern. And that is when the person in front of you starts returning some items from their order, one by one, because the price differential between what they thought something cost and what it actually cost has put them over what they were prepared to spend.
Still, it’s 45-minutes since you parked your car and you thought it was going to be just 15-minutes, but you aren’t quite ready to give up yet because you have that gallon of milk in your cart and you are SO CLOSE. With horror, you realize that your baby is now throwing up. Was it the peanut butter? It doesn’t matter, because now they are soaked in puke and so is the cart and, oops, looks like they got your shoes too——good thing all those magazines are scattered on the floor! And, seriously? They are calling the manager again! Frozen, you don’t know what to do. Do you try to switch lanes. Everywhere looks crowded.
You give up. You pick up your crying and puke covered baby and leave the cart and the puke and the magazines and wrappers and that flipping gallon of milk right there in the check-out lane. It’s an hour since you left your car and before you put your baby in the seat you take off all their puke covered clothes and add them to the bag with the poopy clothes. You put your diapered and otherwise naked baby into the car seat. Screaming. They are screaming. Are you cursing? You don’t even know because your heart is pounding and your head is pounding. Now you drive home. You drop the bag of disgusting clothes on the porch, take your screaming baby and sit on the couch where you nurse for two hours. Each time you try to disengage your boob from your “sleeping” baby’s mouth they wake immediately and start to scream. So you just sit there.
Do you know what the mistake was in this scenario? It was the “second location”. Once you have a child you can no longer just “pop-in” anywhere. No, you can’t just pick up the dry cleaning on your way. No, you can’t stop for burgers on your way back. No, whatever that second thing is that you thought you could squease in, you can’t. Maybe you did this once and nothing bad happened so you got some false confidence? Maybe you are naive? Maybe you had one second location trauma, but you assumed it was a singular incident. No, it wasn’t. Once you are a parent you get to choose one thing and make that one thing happen and that is it. One. One task. One location. ONE.
Experienced parents have embodied this knowledge. We can say things to each other like, “No, we can’t meet you at the museum on Sunday afternoon because we go to church in the morning.” Sure, people without children might wonder why you can’t get somewhere in the afternoon if church is in the morning. But those of us with a child know that even just making it to church was a coup. A second location in one day would be a miracle. Us parents only get so many miracles and we aren’t going to use it up on some outing to the museum. I remember a multi-tasked life where all kinds of things were possible, but now it is a distant memory.
Beware the second location is both excellent urban safety and parenting advice.