Sometimes you end up nursing your baby in the driver’s seat of your minivan in the parking lot of McDonald’s because his persistent screaming from the back seat was about to make you plunge your car into a snow bank. No varieties or volume of music would assuage him, nor your own voice, which is admittedly becoming less soothing. You’re on your way home. It’s been a long day filled with things that did not go well. Why is he screaming? It’s anyone’s guess. He is probably teething. Although he has seemed like he has been teething for the past six months or so. He is probably hungry, because it’s dinner time. You’re hungry. You plied him with cheerios and yogurt melts earlier, and you attempted to give him milk. But as is his habit lately, he will not breastfeed when there are people or things nearby that might be remotely stimulating. He drinks a few sips and–although you know he is hungry and you know plenty of milk is available–he wrests away and tries to throw himself onto the floor so he can crawl toward something compelling, like a glass object. He may be crying because his sister is not in the back seat with him as she usually is, since she has just been dropped off for a sleepover. She is a reliable source of companionship, entertainment, and cheer, and she is missing. He may be tired–as you are–and crying is his favorite way of expressing that. He may be frustrated that he has removed one of his socks but not the other. There is no telling. But you realize you cannot make it home while enduring the screaming any longer, so you pull into the parking lot, as far away from other cars as possible, and try to nurse. At first he refuses, clinging to his tears and then distracted by the novelty of the steering wheel, the gear shift, the buttons that control the music and temperature. Eventually, thankfully, basic desire for nourishment overcomes innate curiosity and he turns to you for milk. And he drinks.
After a while you step gingerly out of the car and oh so carefully try to put him back in his carseat, talking softly to him to try to erase any lingering memory of his previous activity there. He is quiet. You strap him in. You get back in the driver’s seat and start to pull back onto the road. He starts to cry again. Your heartbeat accelerates and your hands clench the steering wheel. You start to sing “Old MacDonald” (no relation to the restaurant–different spelling) and run through your mental catalogue of 15 or so animals. He is quiet again. You are so tired you start getting the animal noises wrong. You switch to “The Wheels on the Bus” and exhaust the list of bus features and riders. He is still quiet. You stop singing and feel profound gratitude for the silence.