Friday, February 02, 2007

File this under: Didn’t See That Coming.

This hasn’t been the best week. At all. I feel as if I’ve had a few of these lately, but this week had some totally new challenges. Yes, I guess we can call them that. No need to elaborate on everything now, but let’s say that self confidence has been sizably compromised of late.

Now, what I want to relay next is something I debated about posting. I really am not fond of confrontation and fights and I don’t see the need to make a big who-ha out of this. Seriously. Yet something about this whole thing makes me angervated. (This being a ‘sniglet’ I came up with on my own. A mutation of ‘anger’ and ‘aggravated’. When you’re not full on angry, but you’re more than aggravated.) I guess throw in a mix of frustration, embarrassment, and a healthy pinch of sadness.

Anyway, one day this week I had to pick up a sick child at school. This pick up was coincidently at the regular dismissal time. My son was feeling nauseous, and didn’t want to take the bus home for fear of the big public upchuck. Never a cool thing at any age. As was discussed with the school nurse, I would drive to a particular section of the parking lot, and meet my child there. OK that’s fine. I drive to school, and as I’m pulling into the parking lot, I see parents outside their vehicles, waiting for their children to be dismissed.

Now, the thing is, this ‘parent pick up’ is all new to me. I’ve either picked up my kids before the end of school, or more commonly, after the regular hours, due to this activity or that.

So, I’m having a running conversation in my head.

“Hey, do I get out and go get him?”

“Hmm, maybe I do, I see other parents there.”

“OK then, I better find a parking spot.”

Now, granted this dialogue happened a lot faster in my head, no matter – the point was moot – my son was in sight, walking over to my truck.

“OK wow, here he is.”

I slow down, and wait for him.

Now, here’s where it gets weird. All of a sudden there’s a police car behind me, lights flashing. I don’t remember if the siren was going, but I think it was.

“Oh man, what’s going on? Hope there’s not a bomb threat or something; I better get out of the way”

Then I am confused, why didn’t she go around me? There was room. I wait for a second, and I figure that I better drive a little further down, to ensure a wide berth. And I should add that driving away from my son, even just a few feet away, weirded me out. Sure, he’s not a little tiny kid, he’s nearly 12. He can figure out that I’m not far. I don’t even consider myself especially over-protective. But still, the mom in me hated that I had to do that.

The officer does not go around; she follows me until I am further away from the other cars. Then she goes around and is rolling down her window, and I roll down mine.

“You cannot double park back there, you must park your car and go and get your child”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I never do this Parent Pick-up and wasn’t sure”

“Well you were given a notice at the beginning of the school year”

“But he saw me and was coming over!”

By now, my son is getting in the truck. “My stomach hurts” He looked pale. I turned back to the officer.

“I’ve never done this before”, I repeated. “My son is actually sick, that’s why I’m driving him home.”

“You were doubled parked” “You can’t put the children’s lives in danger” (I’m paraphrasing that last part)

Well heck, she had a good point. And I know ignorance of the law is no excuse. (OK, I think it should be an excuse sometimes) But my point was, not about right or wrong, just a little understanding. But she was so stern – so…well, I can’t actually think of the right term (strange for me!). I guess this was unsettling because there was a sense of – ‘dear God, this got totally one-sided, I’m not being heard, I am not being understood.’ And this, dear friends, is like a knife in my gut.

To be in the middle of something of import, to be deep into an emotionally charged situation – whether that situation lasts for 5 minutes or several years – and to be not understood, is the worst kind of frustration. It’s distressing, to say the least. Even in this mini-event with the police officer, that feeling was there.

But to her last statement, I knew that it wasn’t worth getting into a whole big deal with, she was right.

“You’re right, I am sorry.”

“Damn right.”

Well, honestly, I’m not sure that’s what she said, but, it sure sounded like it. And I was incredulous. I actually stared at her for a second or two. And so help me God, I nearly called her on it. So bad I wanted to say, “Did you just say damn right to me?” Damn Right. Wow. I was beginning to feel a little pissy, right then and there.

Now, of course there’s a chance she didn’t say that. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. Why would she want to get snarky with me? But if she had said it, that was totally uncalled for, and there wasn’t any reason for me to be treated like that.

Now, I suppose I’ll never know IF she said that. Whatever those last words of hers were, it wasn’t coming from a place of “OK, M’am, just don’t do it again” or even a “Thank you”. Whatever she finished up our tête-à-tête with, felt just as bad, just as embarrassing; as the vibe of the whole episode.

Actually, this frustration of not being understood, not given a chance to explain just a hair of what was going on, reminded me of that odd, nearly one-sided, but hilarious conversation between John Candy’s Buck Russell and Amy Madigan’s Chanice Kobolowski in the 80’s classic, Uncle Buck:

Just let--

No, but-- You don't--

Would you just--

Give me--

Let me get--

You're not-- Give me a--


The exception being that that bit from the movie was funny. What was happening in the school parking lot wasn’t funny at all.

Cops aren’t perfect. The Shield aside, we just know this because we know that no one is perfect, it’s part of the human condition. But I try like hell to not give grief to anyone (except tele-marketers), and I want my kids to remember that the Police truly are our friends, even when they are writing up a speeding ticket. They’re trying to save lives by this sort of thing; it’s not always just to fill a quota

To close, this was yet another challenging parenting moment. How do you talk to you child about your frustrating interaction with a person in authority, retain honesty, yet not corrode their sense of respect for the law? Nobody likes being disciplined. Nobody. However, if there’s any modicum of maturity, we’ll maybe grumble a little, but accept, pray learn from it, and move on.

And hopefully, treat each other a little nicer.