Monday, September 22, 2008

Ramblings from my attic #112
Don’t Cross Me

Since her first foray across the street to school, holding my hand and trying to quell the butterflies dancing in her little five year-old belly, she had wanted to be a crossing-guard. And not just any crossing guard. She wanted to be the crossing guard at HER corner, a gnarly sight-impaired four-way stop that tries the patience of every driver and walker each school day. She carefully observed each year’s trio of fifth graders that ruled her corner. There have been the jolly patrols, the comatose patrols, the singing patrols, the polite patrols, the silly patrols, the chronically late patrols, the dedicated life-saver patrols.

Near the end of fourth grade she turned in her job choices for 5th, an Arlington elementary school tradition. Topping her list was crossing guard. She sighed as she told me that she didn’t think she stood a chance; too many kids wanted to be patrols. A week or so later she got the news. She was a crossing guard, and at HER corner! All was well in the world.

“Mom,” she said after their first training day, “I’m with all boys, and that’s ok, but they must be trying us out because there were four of us today. I hope I’m not cut.”

A few days passed with Lindsay, normally dragging to school just in time for the bell, racing down the street 30 minutes early proudly wearing her orange patrol training belt. One of those mornings I got a call from the mom of one of the boys. She explained that he had been assigned to patrol closer to the school, was partnered with a girl, was totally miserable and kept sneaking up to the four-way stop to be with his friends.

Wouldn’t my daughter like to switch to be with her girl friends? I thought for a moment, and then told the mom as graciously as I could I really didn’t think she wanted to; she, too, was friends with the boys at the corner, and was delighted to be stationed there. I like the mom; our kids have been in classes together for years. We decided that I would test the waters to see if there was any interest in changing. I soon reported back to her that I was sorry, but Lindsay was pleased as punch where she was and had no interest in moving to a position near her girl friends.

School ended. Summer came and went.

Labor Day evening Lindsay packed her lunch and laid out her first day clothes, shoes, back-pack and patrol belt. The next morning she bolted out the door to race down to the school before I could even get out of the shower to kiss her goodbye and good luck. It’s begun, I thought. She’s ten; the umbilical cord is almost severed. I agreed to let her walk herself home, secretly hoping that I would beat her there.

My cell phone rang as I was racing home that afternoon. “Mom?” said a quaking little voice. “Lindsay, honey, what’s wrong? How was your first day of school?” I asked. “Mom, they want me to trade places” she sobbed. That morning the teacher who supervised the patrols had pulled Lindsay and the other patrols together before they walked back up to their stations, and announced to Lindsay and the boy who wanted to take Lindsay’s place, “You two can switch positions if you want to.”

So the begging and teasing began. “Please Lindsay, please please please trade places. Why do you want to be with the boys? Come on; let me be with my friends!” His friends picked up the chant and she spent her first full morning and afternoon in her dream job being asked to leave it. Another family later reported to me that Lindsay had done a great job “crossing” them, but they noticed that she looked upset. The dad had said, “Hey kiddo, everything ok?” to which she responded “I’m fine, just got a little something in my eye” and smiled weakly.

“What do you want to do?” I asked her. “I want to stay on my corner, but everybody’s mad at me, Mom. It’s just a big mess!” she cried. “I’ve upset everybody.” With Lindsay there is always drama. But this time, her tears were real and I struggled to give her the right words, the right message.

“Honey, do not switch if you don’t want to! Just because you are being asked to doesn’t mean you should give up something important to you, something you know you’re good at. You don’t always have to please people. You don’t always have to be with the girls. Sometimes you just have to stick up for yourself, and let everybody else just get over it!” When I got home she was calmer; we hugged.

The next afternoon I asked her how things had gone. “No problem” she said. “I just told him, sorry, I wasn’t going to switch. He was disappointed, but he got over it.”

She smiled and suddenly looked older to me. My little blondie, she’s gonna’ be ok.

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