Tracey has been in big trouble this last week.
“Mum!” Miss9 snapped at her mother after school on Thursday.
We’d arranged for the kids to walk home for the first time ever because our car had twice in one week simply stopped. Rather than risk Tracey breaking down a third time with a car full of kids, we needed to come up with a work around for the afternoon run until the mechanic sorted out what was going on.
“I could take a late lunch,” I said to Tracey. “But I really think they’re old enough to walk home by themselves. They can wait across the road for you to walk over and get them.” The road out front of our place can be especially busy of an afternoon.
“I’m really not comfortable with this,” said Tracey. “It’s a long way for them to walk.”
“It’s only 700 meters,” I told her. “What could happen?”
I’ve no doubt in her head she was rerunning every abduction, accident and disaster she’d ever seen on the news, but after a brief pause she told me her main worry.
“They might enjoy it so much they don’t want me to pick them up anymore.”
So it was settled. Tracey’d gone over the route with the kids and told them, multiple times, which the spots they needed to be extra careful – crossing the dead end street, the driveway to the tennis courts, the driveways to the daycare, the bits where the concrete path wasn’t perfectly flat. They’d been instructed on keeping together and, like in Nam, not leaving anyone behind if they happened to drop something or lose a shoe or spontaneously forgot how to walk.
We were set. The kids were very, very excited.
But of course, if they thought for one minute their mother was going to let something like not having a car stop her from being there when they got out of school, I figured they were going to be sadly mistaken.
I was so close.
They were madly mistaken.
“Mum, what are you doing here?” demanded Miss9.
Tracey had marched down the road with Miss1, Miss3 and a sick Master8, who was home all week with persistent coughing and moaning. “Walk did him good,” Tracey defiantly explained to me later that night when I suggested he should perhaps have stayed home.
Miss6, meanwhile, was standing beside Miss9 going off at her mum like a rabid Chihuahua: her words indecipherable, but her meaning clear.
Eventually a compromise was reached – Tracey and the non-school attendees would walk home ahead of the two girls, who would pretend like mad they were alone. The only time the illusion was broken was when Miss9 would yell out, “You’re too close!”
“You’ve never seen two kids walk so slowly,” Tracey chuckled at me when she explained the afternoon’s fiasco. “Any slower they’d have been moonwalking back to the classrooms.”
Fortunately, our naughty car, minus its clogged fuel filter, has been returned to us, so Tracey can avoid being set upon by her daughters in front of the other parents. Except for one thing…
“Now I’m better,” Master8 told us at the dinner table tonight, “I want to walk home from school by myself like the girls too.”
I don’t think he meant it as it sounded, but I don’t doubt he’ll get exactly what he asked for – his mum and the rest of the tribe keeping an eye on him from twenty meters up the road.
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