Last week our oldest child started Kindergarten.
For the most part this story is pretty typical. He was happy, I was sad and so it goes.
I am sure the following weeks, not to mention months, will provide a plethora of topics for my Mommy Musings column. This morning, however what is most pressing on my mind is not the joy of my child starting school, but my concern for he and his classmates’ safety.
The first few days of school, it quickly became apparent that more parents are taking their children to school. It’s the first week, so I guess it is to be expected. What concerns me, however, is the speed at which said parents are driving to get their precious cargo to school.
Last I checked the speed limit in a school zone during school hours can be as low as 15 miles per hour. Apparently there is a group of parents/caregivers who feel exempt from this rule.
I’ve always been a firm believer that it is better to be a few minutes late and apologize for your tardiness, than the alternative. For those lacking in imagination or harsh reality, the alternative can include a number of things including an apology to the parent who now has to plan the funeral of their young student because your little Johnny was running late.
This may seem a bit extreme, but think about it, which parent would you want to be?
While there were no fatalities from vehicle versus pedestrian last school year, there were enough incidents for this to be a valid concern.
The Oakdale Leader office is pretty much situated in the center of town. During the school year when sirens sound, the first thing the majority of us do is look to the clock. Many of us are mommies, so our instinct has us look to the clock in hopes that it is not lunch break for the high school, or time for a.m. Kindergarten or full-day school to let out.
Then of course we promptly turn to our Cops reporter to find out what she may have heard on her scanner. It’s an unfortunate reality, but one we live often during the school year. Knowing such information first is not always a perk.
The true unfortunate thing is that we do not live in a pedestrian-driven community. Our streets are filled with SUV’s, Minivans and ‘lifted’ pick-up trucks. Instead of teaching our children defensive driving as teenagers, it is now necessary to teach them to be defensive pedestrians. Assumption does not work in your favor, when out on our city streets. Eye contact with the driver is truly your own insurance that you have in fact been seen.
Case in point: my husband and I promptly met our son at the end of his first day of school, just outside of his classroom. As we crossed the street to return to our car, I paused a moment to pick something up right before the curbside. As I did, a lifted Tahoe blew past my backside, which prompted me to quickly straighten up and pop up on the curb.
My son, of course, noticed and said, “What happened, mommy? Why didn’t that lady slow down for the crosswalk.”
Great question and of course there is no valid or excusable answer.
So, being the person that I am, I quickly turned this in to a lesson on why we should never assume and explained that while the crosswalk is intended to be safe, it’s not guaranteed.
So … this is my plea: Dear self-absorbed busy parent, Please slow down. Please, get off the phone and please pay attention if you are anywhere within walking distance of a school. My son may be around the corner. My niece may be in the crosswalk and my girlfriends’ children may be climbing out of their car to kiss mom goodbye. I’d like to meet you at a Parent Teacher meeting or perhaps Back to School Night. Let’s not meet when you are apologizing for something that never should have happened in the first place. Thank you. Gratefully, Teresa Hammond
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.