Eight traffic lights separate 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 just miss a few of them.
We’ve got to be reversing out of the driveway by 7:46 each morning with lunches, flutes and books in tow, or else. Any later, even just one minute later, and a just missed traffic light flipping from green to yellow to red might result in my oldest child being late for school, and this parent having to walk her in, hand her over, and walk back to the car alone with a pink tardy slip of shame.
But it was that one traffic light! That one slow-ass-mofo in front of me! Those geese crossing the street!
No excuses, dad. No later than 7:46 a.m. 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 really needs a piece of tape to hold down the lid so all five dozen 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. And 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 like the head of an airline passenger who feels the first rattle of out-of-nowhere turbulence.
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, reminding her of our 7:46 a.m. deadline, of the need to think ahead for things like lace-up shoes and boxes of 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. Her new electric Razor scooter had just arrived and would be fully charged by the time she tossed her backpack down on the entry way bench at 4:10 p.m.
I dropped her off. And then I asked her sister if I was too harsh. She said I was, a little, not the consequence, necessarily, but everything else.
I thought about this all day, a sunny day that was 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 for all but 15 minutes.
I picked up my second grader first. And I gave her a big, loving hug before pulling away from the first parent pick-up zone I visit every afternoon. I apologized for getting so angry with her eight hours prior and 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 slammed open to run out, tossed her backpack onto the entry way bench at 4:10 p.m., unplugged her new scooter, strapped on her helmet, and was off.
We’re both still growing up. We never stop growing up, not really, whether we’re 7, 11, 36 or 39, or any number before, in between or after.
A version of this first appeared on Out with the Kids.