For the second time that day, I stood in my driveway watching one of my boys cross Main Street. My middle son was waiting at the crosswalk for someone — anyone — to stop so he could walk his bike across. It was late afternoon and he was going to ride the half-mile to the elementary school where he would meet a friend and his mom, and they would all ride back together. I watched as cars sped past him and one of them whipped around the corner onto our street. I felt like shouting at the guy to slow down, but I just looked at him. OK, maybe I gave him the angry eyebrows. The speed limit on our street is 25 mph, but it’s the rare driver who actually sticks to the limit, though the cones we put out while waiting for the morning school bus do give some people pause.
The first time was at the earlier end of that day. My oldest had come bombing back into the house, slightly breathless, saying, “Mom, I think I missed the bus!”
I was standing at the kitchen counter making his brothers’ lunches. One brother was in the bathtub; the other was sitting at the kitchen table, undressed, agonizing loudly over his homework. I turned and squinted at the clock in the dining room. It was 7:48 a.m.
“You’re still here?” I have been instructed not to “stalk” my son at the bus stop, which is right at the end of our very short driveway, thus, my surprise. “You must have.”
“Well, you better start walking.”
“I don’t want to be late.”
“You won’t be. You have 12 minutes.”
Technically, middle school doesn’t start until 8:08 a.m. according to the handbook, but apparently those eight minutes between their 8 a.m. release from wherever it is they assemble after getting off the bus and homeroom are important.
He turned abruptly and walked back out.
“OK, bye,” he tossed over his shoulder without looking back. He must have realized that even if I were willing to rally both of his elementary-school-aged brothers into the car, he would get there sooner if he walked.
I followed him out and stood on the steps as he crossed the street briskly.
“You could always flag down another bus — they’re all going to the same place.” But I knew he wouldn’t. I doubted he would consider that “cool” or even “normal.”
He raised his hand to wave (dismissing the suggestion, confirming the ‘goodbye,’ or both?), as he race-walked quickly down the block to Main Street.
“Bye, honey.” I stood in the driveway and watched as he crossed over safely and disappeared from my sight (still not looking back), consoling myself that of course I’d receive a phone call if he didn’t show up in homeroom. This was the first time he’d ever walked to school by himself.
That afternoon, as my middle son finally negotiated Main Street in one piece, he turned back to give me the thumbs up. I waved at him. How did he know I’d be watching? I wondered. And how long would it be before he — like his brother — didn’t look back?
The mother of three sons, Caroline Poser lives with her family in Groton. She works full time as a software marketing professional and moonlights as an author. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies including the #1 New York Times best-selling series Chicken Soup for the Soul®. www.CarolinePoser.com.