School Zones

It’s been on the news almost every day this week: a new incident of children on their way to school being struck by a car. These weren’t kids walking on their lonesome, either, even though that is the norm here.

There’s been lots of talk on TV about how we can keep kids safer, but I’ve yet to hear anyone suggest what is common sense in many other countries around the world: decent sidewalks and not having children walk alone.

We are very lucky to have a proper sidewalk most of the route to school. Unfortunately many parents from the daycare next door mistake it for a parking lot. Worse yet they park right by the crosswalk of the only busy street most of the kids need to cross and seriously disrupt visibility.

Every year, the Safety Council walks the various school routes with the local police department, then together they write up a list of things that can be done to improve safety, but so far they haven’t been able to stop the blocked crosswalk situation.

I don’t like the children walking alone, period. I walked with Me First as long as he would let me, and I’m torn about it now. Maybe I am just being a paranoid foreigner, as my husband, in-laws, and several teachers have suggested. But then again I know my kid. And he hasn’t exactly proven himself to be a responsible walker.

Just for a fun example, let’s use yesterday. Me First was supposed to finish @2:30. Our house is about 5 minutes from school. Come 3 o’clock, he still hasn’t come home. It was raining, it was Friday when he tends to have a lot to bring home, but still thirty minutes to walk 200 yards is a little much.

It happens sometimes, and I wasn’t overly concerned at first. I figured his teacher might be keeping him after school for a bit. It happened a couple of times last year.

So I dragged Me Too out in the rain and we walked the route Brother is *supposed* to walk to school, but didn’t see him. We got to the school, but his shoes were gone. He had definitely left.

Maybe we missed each other, I thought, and walked home quickly. He wasn’t there.

By this time it was 3:30, and I was worried.

We went around the neighborhood, calling him. We ran into some of his classmates, who hadn’t seen him.

My heart started to beat fast, my mouth went dry, and a sick, sinking feeling slowly invaded my stomach.

Who do you call first? The police? The school? A neighbor to come help look?

3:45.

Two little heads finally appear on the horizon, with plastic pudding cups filled with pond water and live water skates.

I may have scared his little friend to death, being in Mama Bear banshee mode and all. But holy sh!t child, you don’t just disappear for over an hour and then just expect things to be all peaches-and-cream hunky-dory when I’ve been worried out of my wits.

His friend apparently goes home to an empty house and was in no hurry. Me First didn’t want to come home first and ask if he could go to the pond because he knew I would say no. Damned right I would!

But we’ve reached an agreement of sorts. I’ll try to find a way to let him do the things he wants to do, but he absolutely MUST come straight home from school.

Children here have a lot of freedom, but they are still children. Here’s hoping they all manage to make it home from now on.

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