This time of year brings out the envy in me. Not for that summer body I can’t have. (That’s another story.) I look longingly at the sleek, cool lines of a convertible.

A person driving a convertible just looks sexy. Putting that roof down takes ten years and twenty pounds off them. They look smarter, richer, and confident. You just know they got perfect SAT scores.   Their hair gently waves in the open air, their skin the perfect shade of tan, with pearly whites bleached by the sun. Just look at them. Happy without a care in the world, off for a leisurely ride in a convertible.

I indulged on vacation with my daughter and rented a convertible. We were giddy with excitement, and the rental car agent was giddy with the bonus for the premium upgrade. But we didn’t care. On vacation it is all Monopoly money.

We hurried to the garage to claim our prize. Ten minutes later we were still trying to figure out how to get the top down. Let’s see…you have to unlock a bunch of levers, turn the car on, foot on the break, press this button and remove everything from the trunk. So that suitcase with everything I need for two weeks on the road doesn’t fit in the trunk if the top is down. Ok. Toss that in the back seat.  A four-seat sedan becomes a two-seater. So what! Maybe that isn’t the image the advertisers would use, but it was fine with us.

Top down, suitcase strapped in, and we hit the road. Until we go forty yards out of the garage and the bright noon sun blinds me. The rays are sneaking in around the frames of my sunglasses, a glare on my retinas. The sun is frying my minivan skin.  My freckles were looking for a place to hide. First chance I get, I have to pull over and apply sunscreen. Thankfully, my suitcase is right behind me.

Ok. Good to go. Sunscreened up, suitcase strapped back down.  Let’s hit the road.  35 – 45 – 55 – 65 miles per hour.  Hair whipped into a frenzy. If it isn’t the sun blinding me, it’s my hair stinging my face. Thankfully, teenage daughter carries scrunchies. Hair up, top down, suitcase strapped back down. We pull off the highway shoulder, having made it a mile from the airport.

We find a comfort zone. With the top down but all the windows up, our hair and clothes stay close to our bodies. This is kind of fun. We are the envy of everyone we pass, what with our knotty hair, thick sunscreen, as we scream at each other because we can’t hear a thing.

So here’s what I know about driving convertibles. In the summer, which is perfect convertible weather, it is hot as Hades in a convertible. We drove with the air conditioner cranked up as high as we could get it. And that sun? The one that normally the roof of our car blocks for us? Well, there is no escaping it in a convertible. That little visor is as useful as a shoveling with a teaspoon in a blizzard. And birds like convertibles too. I think they send out a signal “cackaw, convertible at 36 degrees.”  Mud and bird poop are why car companies first put roofs on cars. It was a good idea.

Did I mention my passenger?  I was putting my teenage daughter on display for truck drivers. She’s got the seat reclined, sunglasses on, long hair flowing, tank-top and short shorts, happily sunning while truckers swerve to get a good look. I can hear the CB’s going “Breaker 1-9. Eyeball beaver in the rockin’ chair in the sandwich lane. 10-4.”

On day two our convertible vacation, I bought a big safari hat, bigger sunglasses, stronger sunscreen and wore long sleeves just to drive the car. I now discovered that convertible drivers aren’t really smiling, but grimacing from the heat and sunburn. We got stuck in traffic and no amount of air conditioner could compensate for the lack of protective metal over our heads.

On day three, I put the top up and it stayed that way for the rest of the vacation. And the suitcase took its rightful place in the trunk.

And yet, looking at those beautiful people cruising down the road in their convertibles, knowing what I know, I still want to trade places with them. I don’t see skin cancer, or bird poop, or sweat under their arms. They look rich and sexy, smiling as they recall their perfect SAT scores.

Doting Mothers

There are women out there who are making me look bad.

Not the superwoman with the high-powered job who can accomplish everything. It is that doting mother. If memory serves me correctly I was a doting mother once. This might fall under the category of revisionist history. At least give me “sometimes attentive mother.”  I must have done something right to get them to adulthood without a single emergency room visit or grandmother intervention.

My kids would come home from play dates with these fantastic stories of mothers who doted on the kids around them. I just knew play dates were dangerous. What do you need, honey?  Can I get you a snack, sweetie? Trays of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven, with the perfect blend of chocolate milk. Heck, I wanted to come spend the afternoon there.

If only my kids had not been allowed to visit other homes when they learned to talk. Then I wouldn’t have heard the stories of mothers who did arts & crafts and made beaded necklaces with them. Or colored fifty dozen Easter eggs. I thought they were over there to play video games.

And the food.  If you listen to my kids, you’d think the only thing I offered came from industrial size boxes from warehouse clubs. In my defense, they are very convenient and have a very long shelf life. In fact, I might still have something if you are hungry. But then I hear other mothers are offering fresh meatballs in homemade sauce, penne ala vodka with shrimp. All this without reservations and gratuity! At my house, all I can offer is a dusty apple. If you come back tomorrow, that banana should be ready.  I have plenty of vegetables that no one seems interested in. Go figure.

My kids come home with these fairy tales of moms warming up full plates of food that contain a deliciously seasoned protein, perfectly steamed vegetables that they would never eat at home, a complex carbohydrate that requires peeling, boiling, mashing, which is way too much trouble for me, finished off with a homemade dessert. The upside is that since my kids were at those houses, I didn’t need to come up with a dish of any sort. I ask: “Will you be home for dinner?” If the majority says No, I am off the hook for meal prep. I’ve even narrowed down the window of opportunity – dinner is from 5:45-6:15pm. I find being specific helps avoid confusion and disappointment or work on my part. I trace my attitude to the minute someone said “I don’t want that for dinner.”

A doting mother follows the philosophy of cook once, feed a small army twice. I’m more like, cook once and rest on that laurel for the week. And jumping up to reheat your food when you come in from a night out? Remember that microwave I got at the baby shower? I’ll show you how to use it. Can this be classified as doting? It is teaching a skill.

Doting doesn’t just take place in the kitchen. The minute kids can dress themselves, there is nothing wrong with introducing them to the hamper. When kids begin to change clothes multiple times a day, they should know how to use the controllers on the washer and dryer.  Doting mothers, rumor has it, not only pick up the clothes, but kids find them back in their rooms hung up, folded, even coordinated in their closets. Please don’t tell my children that. I can’t bear the thought of going in their rooms.

I get a kick out of mothers telling kids to “put a coat on, it’s cold outside.” Well, if my kids haven’t figured out winter coats are seasonal outfits, they need more than a doting mother. If it was cold yesterday and cold the day before, common sense, not your mother, tells you to put on a coat.

You can spot the child of a doting mother from a mile away at Halloween. When the child of a doting mother needs a costume, she presents them with something out of Warner Brothers wardrobe department.  My son wanted to be a blue power ranger and he got matching blue sweat pants and shirt with an aluminum foil lightning bolt stapled to it. (I did make sure he wore an undershirt so the staples didn’t scratch him. Is that doting? Concern for physical well-being.)

Shhh. Did you hear that? The kids are home. I’m going to pretend I’m napping.