No Matter What!
I aimed to get there just a few minutes early… to time it just right… at the after school One Minute Drop off and Pick-up. Collect my lovely 6-year-old and drive her 260 km to her mum’s for her fortnightly weekend visit. You know how it goes …a huge line-up of cars… all cruising, patiently, slowly, standing still, waiting for a minute to pick up their precious child… but NO WAITING…
“Sorry sir, you’ll have to go round again… can’t hold up the cars…will only take you a minute or two.” “What!?” I say. “Surely I can wait another minute or so….she’ll be here any second?” pleadingly, best charming voice….Yeah, well that worked!
The volunteer-parent traffic cop just stares… her eyes say NO…with disdain.
So round I go….not one minute, not two, but 8.…! and then I have to wait at the end of the long line…and my darling girl can’t see me!
But I can see her…all distraught, red-faced, crying.…and a teacher is standing with her and her friends, trying to console her. Strange, because normally she is so confident. What deep fears lurk beneath the bubbly veneer? My protection instincts kick in. I want to get out and call to her, but can’t… the line is moving slowly… I could walk faster, and she is too far away to hear. I feel powerless….she is so upset….all because I timed it wrong and felt obliged to “do the right thing”.
They’re looking around wondering what to do.….I’m almost there. Why don’t they just look this way? I feel her tears deep in my heart, sharp knives of angry pain…
And then suddenly they see me and the whole group turns, opens and lifts, flower-like, exuding such relief. And she comes running to the car….eyes all red and pained and embarrassed. How can a six-year-old be embarrassed by her own anguish?
Teacher says, “She thought you had gone without her! She saw you drive off.”
It didn’t occur to a 6 year old that that makes no sense. It did to her.
Oh, my darling child, never, never, never would I leave without you…. and there are tears in my eyes when I hold her and say, “It’s ok now, I’m here, don’t ever worry about being left behind.”
And immediately she is happy and nibbles on the munchies I had made for her. “Can you tell me a story?” she asks, settling down for the 3-hour drive. Problem over.
A fortnight later. Same thing happened. Got there too early. My precious child not there yet.
“Please move on sir.” I was right at the front of the line 100 metres long.
“No” I say calmly, respectfully. “Last time I did that we had a very distraught 6-year old who thought I’d left her behind.” I think the traffic cop read the quiet determination in my eyes.
“Ah yes!” she says, “and you have to get to Toowoomba by 6pm and every minute counts.” Smiling, genuinely smiling. “Just wait here for a minute and I’ll go get her”
Who told her that? Did I tell her that? Why the change of attitude, why a smile rather than a stare of disdain?
A minute later my lovely girl comes running up, breathlessly. “Opa, you didn’t have to wait, I knew you’d come round again.” I think I’m more fragile than her.
And before you tell me how selfish and inconsiderate I am…. “Everyone else has to line up, everyone else would like to stay longer, everyone else gets frustrated, made worse by people like you who won’t move on.”
You are right… it’s not about the 8 minutes, it’s not about the inconvenience, it’s not about impatience, it’s not even about fairness…it’s about standing my ground if I sense my 6-year-old is about to feel abandoned. I only had to do it once. The next time she knew I would be there, no matter what.