Every weekday afternoon, you will find me standing on the corner of my street, waiting for my children. One walks down the sidewalk from the elementary school; the other is dropped off from the school bus. Winter or early summer, sunshine or heavy rain, I am there, chatting with the crossing guard, watching the oh-so-long carpool line and thanking my lucky stars I’m not in it
In my two years there, I’ve seen a lot, but one thing perplexes me like no other: how oblivious drivers are when they are in school zones.
I’ve seen cars speeding like they’re on a major thoroughfare instead of a residential street. I’ve witnessed drivers not at all aware that children are about to cross the road, too busy thinking about where they are going and what they have to do instead of noticing what was right in front of them. I’ve even witnessed instances in which drivers — in a school zone, mind you — have refused to yield to kids in the street, even blaring their horns and driving off with the screech of tires. Many times, my mouth has dropped open at the audacity of some of these people.
And I’ll let you in on the most mind-boggling part: Most of the time, the drivers are mothers.
Yep, the minivans and the SUVs with the little stick-figure families on the back give them away every time. They have already picked up their kids, you see, and their minds are on other things. They have places to get to and mouths to feed and homework to help complete — they don’t have time to remember their surroundings, to take notice of what’s happening in the present.
I’ve spent two years on the street corner, often on my high horse about these moms and their inattention — and the devastation that could happen as a result. What in the world could they be thinking, I would say in disgust to the crossing guard. “SLOW DOWN!” I would yell every once in a while, mostly in vain. Shaking my head, I would wonder what the world was coming to.
And so it was a bright and early morning recently that I walked my son to his classroom, and then hurriedly, I hopped in my minivan. I had a list a mile long that day — doctor’s office— oh, I hope that won’t take long, then to the dry cleaner’s, then to the home improvement store — I swear, if I don’t get the right light bulbs this time, I give up, then the grocery store to get…..
I slammed on my brakes, instantly brought back to the present, in which a crossing guard stood before me, sign out, whistle blaring. Two kids stood waiting to cross, their exasperated mothers standing behind them. The car on the other side of the crossing guard was blowing its horn to get my attention. I had not seen them. It had looked like I was not going to stop.
I gulped hard. My heart beat fast. The crossing guard gave me a stern look, angrily motioning for the kids and moms to cross. I hung my head, ashamed to look at them. How could this have happened? What was I thinking?
Moms, pay attention. I know it’s hard — I have now been there, and my high horse is permanently retired. We’ve got a million things to do and a billion distractions — but this is important. Slow down. Pay attention.
I now have it on a card on my steering wheel.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.