About one year ago I took Lex with me to the car wash. It was one of those car washes that you ride through with your car as the brushes, sprays, soaps, and air blasts remove all of the grime from your vehicle. The adventurous boy in me loves riding through these and I thought Lex, at about 8 months of age might enjoy it too. I could not have been more wrong.
Lex was in his car seat in the middle of the backseat, as he should always be, when entered the house of horrors. I was half distracted by the spinning brushes and sprays coming at us that I did not immediately notice Lex’s obvious face of sheer terror. As the brushes and foam hit the car I looked to Lex to see if he was enjoying the experience. At that moment he started shreaking in terror. I tried to calm him down with my voice, trying to sell the whole thing is good fun, as I struggled out of my seat belt, got him out of his car seat, and pulled him into the front seat with me.
I felt terrible and foolish to have assumed he would enjoy such a potentially frightening experience. He called down pretty quickly after we got out. I was able to pull over at the neighboring Jack-in-the-Box and took him in for a change of scenery. We enjoyed some cheap fries together and then headed home to tell Momma the story of our unexpected adventure.
Now fast-forward 1 year, to last month. The car was VERY dirty and in need of a serious wash. In fact, it was so dirty that I felt I was violating my responsible fatherhood by allowing it to remain like that. You see, we have a two car garage that is somewhat toddler-proof and fairly clean, an so we often let Lex play int here and he frequently runs his hand along the side of the car as he strolls past it. Given the unknown, yet suspected, contaminants in the grime that was on the car, I felt it was time to take the responsible fatherhood initiative and get the car washed again (yes, after nearly 1 year). In fact, my wife was already urging me to do this too!
I hadn’t forgotten our previous car wash adventure; not at all. However, I didn’t think it was a concern seeing as how this daddy’s boy was a “big boy” now. What a mistake!
We went to a different car wash, but the inside pandemonium was quite similar. Again I was into the excitement of the moment and making certain that I was not pressing the breaks. Just as the brushes hit I looked to Lex int he rear-view mirror and then I spun around in the front seat immediately. Lex was literally shaking with fear. His little arms were half stretched-out, with his hands open, and he has shaking them. His face had the look of pure terror. It broke my heart in an instance and I tried to get him out as quickly as possible.
Once freed from his car seat I again pulled him up front with me and he clung to me like never before. He pushed his head in under my chin and into my neck with a full and constant force; as if he were trying to bury his head. He stayed like this all through the ordeal. As we rolled out of the newly discovered house of horrors and into the sunlight, I shifted the car and maneuvered to an open parking spot near the vacuum stations. All during this time Lex never loosened his grip or stopped pressing his head in to my neck and chest. You’d think it would be hard to drive like this, but his grip was so tight that I didn’t have to hold him and our car is an automatic.
All of my calming words, playing calming music, and tactile reassurement took about 5 minutes to have any effect on Lex. Slowly his feeling of terror faded away and again I took him to the nearest local establishment (grocery store) to help reset him for the journey home. He of course, for got about everything by the time the shopping and playing were through. I don’t think I will be taking him to the car wash for a long time. Or perhaps, I could take him and just dismount the car before it enters the house of horrors and pick it up at the end. If not, I think I need to find a different sort of car wash.