There are eight traffic lights separating the short driveway in front of our home and our grade school's two separate parent drop-off zones. Pushing back from the gate by 7:46 a.m. affords us the time to justmiss a few of them.
We must be reversing out of the driveway by 7:46 each morning, with lunches, water bottles, backpacks, flutes, and books to read in tow, to make sure I'm not walking out of school 28 minutes later with a pink tardy slip. Leaving at any point after 7:46 a.m. -- say, for example, 7:49 a.m., or 7:52 a.m., or even 7:47 a.m. -- and a justmissed traffic light unmercifully flipping from green to yellow to red might result in the fifth grader being late for school, a tardiness stain on her record, and this parent having to walk her in, hand her over, and walk back to the car alone with a pink slip of shame.
But it was that one traffic light! That one guy driving in front of me who apparently had no place to get to! Those geese crossing the street!
No excuses, dad. 7:46 a.m. or earlier, or else.
When one kid decides at 7:45:38 a.m. that she really needs to bring her box of 64 Crayolas into school... but also really needs a piece of tape to hold down the lid so all five-dozen-plus hues of green, orange, yellow, brown, blue, and red don't spill into her backpack... but she can't find the roll of tape because it's not where it should be because she was (probably) the last one to use it so it of course didn't get put back in its proper place so that when it is needed to secure the lid of a crayon box at 7:45:38 a.m. so we can be backing out of the driveway by 7:46 a.m., it of course is nowhere to be found... The clock ticks on humorlessly, with no color at all.
And then I yelled.
And then she slammed down the box of 64, the lid flapping up violently.
And then she slammed open the front door.
And then she stormed into the car.
And then I proceeded to unload on her for most of the 13-minute drive to our school's parent drop-off zone, reminding her of our 7:46 a.m. deadline, of the need to think ahead for things like lace-up shoes and boxes of 64 crayons. I decided on a dime to levy a consequence, to take away her after-school outdoor time, an especially harsh repercussion of her actions on this day considering her new electric Razor scooter had just arrived and would be fully charged by the time she tossed her backpack down on the entryway bench at 4:10 p.m.
I dropped the second-grader off first. And then I asked the oldest if I was too harsh. She said I was, a little, not the consequence, necessarily, but everything else. It's nice to be able to ask those kinds of questions of your firstborn child, to have those conversations with a maturing kid. They ground me.
I thought about the events of that morning all day, a sunny 67-degree day made for scootering around a small neighborhood after a day of second grade drudgery, of coloring with school-issued off-brand crayons, of animal habitats and extreme weather lesson plans, of being trapped indoors in springtime for all but 15 minutes.
I picked up the youngest first and gave her a big, loving hug before pulling away from the first parent pick-up zone I visit every afternoon. I wasted no time in apologizing for getting so angry with her eight hours prior, and she replied in kind. I asked her if we could each try to not get so worked up over such things as crayon boxes, pieces of tape, and 30 seconds on either side of any single minute, 7:46 a.m. or otherwise. She agreed and hugged me back. We talked about her day, about tornadoes and hurricanes and 10 feet of water in hotel lobbies. It was an eventful Tuesday.
And then, with a smile, she ran in through the very door she'd slammed open to run out, tossed her backpack onto the entryway bench at 4:10 p.m., unplugged her new scooter, strapped on her helmet, and was off.
It dawned on me, on this Tuesday, that we're both still growing up. That we never stop growing up, not really, whether we're 7, 11, 36, 39, or any number before, in between, or after. And that sometimes we're too harsh to each other in the heat of a moment. That she's 7 and doesn't yet have the capacity to always, 100 percent of the time remember to plan out her Tuesday mornings on Monday nights, thus ensuring we back out of the driveway by 7:46 a.m. And, finally, that a big, loving hug and a mutual promise to try again, to try harder, is worth a scoot after school.