Monday, 8 October 2007

Making It Work...With Help

When school started this year I struggled. School runs while working fulltime? Then came the best advice, a true a mom-to-mom tip. “Think like a mother and talk to a mother. Think, what is value to other mothers? Barter."

With this, things seemed clearer. Very soon after, I had my school runs sorted. I bartered to take a neighbor boy to school, and that parent would bring Babydoll home. This also worked with another mom/child in Cutiepie’s preschool. So full cars going to school and full cars collecting at school—all in all, it seems the right thing to do, very green for the environment!

Babydoll’s and Neighborboy’s school is a new and good school, though the planning committee was a bit amiss when they considered, or rather, forgot to consider parking and drop-off zones. There are none. Seriously. Literally. I’m not kidding.
Clearly the committee members walked to school in their day. Quite probable as this is rural Ireland.

Anyhoo, the school is atop a hill behind the village and the single curbside in front is reserved for teachers. Parents are advised to park in the village and walk children up to the school via a long stepped lane between two buildings. The laneway opens to the schoolyard where a rambunctious game of SomethingIrish always ensues among the kids kicking soccer balls and each other. The front walkway, lined with lovely flowers and hedges, begins at the curbside and is about 72 miles from the village’s five or six parking spots.

Neighborboy’s mom was good enough to tell me her parking shtick as it saves so much time. She pulls into a private building’s parking area off the village road and drops Neighborboy there and he navigates himself up the laneway and to the school entrance. From the exit point of this parking area, although he has 502 steps yet to take, Neighborboy is in her line of vision right up until he enters the school entrance. Perfect for me. Especially ‘cause this eliminates unbuckling, unloading and schlepping (and the reverse) two preschoolers in/out on the first school run. And no, is the answer to those who are wondering, could I drop the preschoolers off first? School times and locations dictate otherwise.

A little sumpin’ about Neighborboy. He is the kindest, sweetest 9yo boy with the mannerism of a 65yo. He covets Babydoll like the little sister he never had. One rainy day I worried they might get wet outside.
“Aw, sure, I show her how to take shelter in them trees.” He said ever so proud. Oh, he was the son I never had.

On Friday, Neighborboy stayed home with a toothache. I charged on and loaded the car minus one conscientious and notable passenger. It was quieter than usual. On most days Neighborboy would point out the local what’s what on our road leading to the village, this while balancing his lunchbox on his head in a successful effort to entertain the girls.

Unlike other days, at the exit junction I jumped out of the car, gathered Babydoll by her coat, kissed her goodbye, spun her around and give her a good shove up the first step of the path, all while my car idled nearby with two wide-eyed preschoolers. Hopefully, all too quick to miss the presence of Neighborboy. Babydoll is a true dawdler, but today she could’ve crawled faster. I paced from one foot to the other, taking 30 second glances at the car to see if any uncertain anxiety erupted from the little ones.

By step 433, Babydoll was still walking, yet, could it be she was slowing down? My heart quickened.
Please go, please go, go on to the school yard. Please go. Just go! I pleaded quietly under my breath.
At step 599, Babydoll slightly turned in my direction. And I knew it. I just knew it. Her face crumpled.
I was now audible; I was urgent, but using a mellow tone, “Go to school Babydoll. Just go. Go up the steps, just go, please!” Just like shooing a cat.

She ignored my pleas, just like a cat would.

At the second to last step, she had made a full rotation and began descending, still in her usual slow manner. I was defeated.

If and only if, I had been a sprinter in high school, I would’ve flown up those steps and given her the inch nudge to put inside the entrance and then high tailed it outta there. But I wasn’t, which is a probably a good thing, cause there was the idling car with two small preschoolers to contend with.

What to do? Do I reload her in the car, park the car, load/unload the others? I average 30 minutes late to work due to school runs, but that meter was now pushing an hour, and reality would have it be nearly 2 hours before I could surface. Yikes!

Babydoll reached me and her face said it all. But just in case, she cried, “I don’t want to walk to school alone.” She is only 4 years old for goodness sake! I knelt and let her cry in my arms. She had been caught in that playground like a deer in headlights before, and I could only imagine she was frightened of facing this morning’s game of human dodge ball all on her own.

Just as I was about to wave the white flag, still on my knees, I turned about and came face to face a chubby red headed girl about 9 years old making her way up the steps. My luck changed.

“Hi! This is Babydoll! What’s your name?”

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