watch closely now

is anyone watching them now?

since anyone can remember, the big kids at the elementary school get important volunteer jobs. some are bus patrols. some help inside the school, like BC, who at the time asked to be a music helper because there’s no way on earth i am doing a job where you have to stand outside in the rain and the snow somedays. and of course, there are the kids who work the kiss and ride.

the kiss and ride is a critical part of the morning for a lot of us. sleep-hazed parents and children start to pull up at the designated strip of land around 8:30 or so, where, if they’ve shown up by then, one of six 5th graders opens the door, announces good morning! in a voice suitable for a mickey mouse club audition, waits for various numbers of children to tumble out onto the sidewalk, declares that you should have a nice day! in the next breath, and slams the door (hopefully not on the backside of the last child out. ) they also direct traffic, waving drivers to move up as far along the path as they can be, to accommodate as many cars as possible in a short period of time. it’s actually not an easy job, especially for 10 and 11 year olds.

now, in theory, these kids are supervised, much in the same way the bus patrols are supervised, in theory, by the bus drivers (who have nothing better to do than navigated miles and miles of suburban and urban tangles amidst drivers who really ought to consider valium prior to getting in their respective vehicles.) but as of late, i have scratched my head and wondered why kids are directing traffic without an adult nearby.

maybe it’s because i come on the early shift — usually between 8:30 and 8:40. perhaps the grownups come out afterwards in the height of traffic — the 8:40-8:50 timeframe when, i suspect, all you-know-what breaks loose. (or can. i wouldn’t put it past a lot of these adults, all of whom are’t-you-know-who-i-AM?) but i don’t usually see any grownups there supervising the kids. i should note i have been doing this run for six years now. i have a lot of years of kiss-and-ride patrol experience here. and while last year’s crew was head-and-shoulders the worst bunch of patrols ever, this year’s is giving them a run for their money. i have been driving up when one child is walking backwards, as if on a balance beam, on the very edge of the sidewalk, while cars nearly miss him. i have had kids nearly taking out my kid’s leg as they absentmindedly close the door behind him (too bad for my son, he’s not a speed demon every morning.)

and this morning took the proverbial cake. i pulled up behind a car where one of the patrols was holding the door open. unfortunately, there was no child getting out — in fact, the child was already down the sidewalk, turning the corner towards the school building. but the patrol, deep in conversation with the five other patrols, who were all sitting on the fence like little birdies, chirping amongst themselves, didn’t notice. i saw the mother behind the wheel yell something to the patrol. the spell broken, he turned and, realizing his error, closed the door so that she could proceed.

meanwhile, jools, who had by this time undone his seat belt and who had leaned forward to give me a goodbye kiss, had realized that no one was coming to open his door. those little birdies were still yapping away on the fence to the one standing, who somehow didn’t realize that another car had been waiting behind the first. taking the initiative, jools started to open his door and proceed out. the birdies were suddenly awakened — they leapt off the fence and started yelling at me to move my car up. hello — you didn’t get up off your butts to let my kid out, so you can wait until he safely gets himself out of the car. they continued to yell at me while jools made his way. i don’t tend to get into arguments with kids, mine or other peoples’ – but i did announce to them — maybe if you paid attention to your job and stopped yakking, this could have been different.

they were not amused.

but, my goal was not to get into it with a bunch of 5th graders (i do consider myself smarter than a 5th grader, at least most days anyhow) but rather to get my son safely off to school. and i did, though i didn’t get to tell him i love you like i do on most mornings — i just saw him slink sadly down the street toward school.

now, i realize that these are 10 and 11 year old kids. but that is exactly my point. i see the adult crossing guard who really has a time of it up the street from the school, trying to get people to stop so that pedestrians on their way to school don’t end up as road pizza. and she is an adult. and when kids are supervised at the kiss-and-ride, they are on the ball and pay attention to this job which they probably should hand off to grownups in the first place. but. left to their own devices and without supervision, kids will be kids. they will zone off. they will space out. they will chatter. and they won’t necessarily be paying as close attention to a job in which safety is paramount — for themselves as well as for the people whom they serve.

next year, jools has a shot of being some sort of school helper. i sincerely hope he opts to help out the music teacher, like his sister did. i don’t know how much she was supervised when she was a music helper, but my spidey sense tells me that the worst thing that might happen there would be he might drop a cymbal on his foot. i can live with that sort of mistake.

and so can he.

5 thoughts on “watch closely now

  1. sounds really similar to my experience, but I could add a paragraph about the safety patrols at the corner from which kiss-and-ride parents must exit the area who can do NOTHING about the fact that at least 30% of those parents do not stop for the CHILDREN CROSSING THE STREET AT A CROSSWALK IMMEDIATELY OUTSIDE THEIR SCHOOL. I’ve actually talked to these kids and discovered that they have been told not to do anything whatsoever for their own safety. On one hand I agree, but on the other hand, who IS watching out for this?

  2. OMG, wlt, that’s awful!

    you know, we all hearken back to the days when we were young and kids had *responsibilities* like this. but the truth is, things are different now. people drive insanely (i can’t tell you how many times i have stood at our bus stop in the afternoon and have watched people drive around out school bus even though it’s red lights are flashing and it’s little metal arm thing is out — once i saw someone do this and take off a car door that a nanny had just opened), even if they are parents. once their kid is out, it’s open season and They Must Get To Work (or wherever). the idea of kids monitoring and even directing adult behavior is crazy on it’s face, especially nowadays when adults don’t even listen to other adults — or the traffic laws.

    in short, i worry a lot about these kids. i know i kvetch about how they do their jobs, but considering how many of them are unsupervised, they are doing the best they can do. and still, i worry.

  3. This sounds awful. At our school, the music teacher staffs the first crosswalk with two students. Everybody loves this guy, and he lets the student do their job, but it’s quite clear he’s in charge and cars do pay attention (as do the two students). At the actual kiss and drop, there are no students. It’s chaotic enough with cars rolling through. I don’t think our principal wants to risk having kids in the mix. Instead, the 5th graders walk the younger students to their classrooms from the rally point in the gym. This seems to work well. At the crosswalk on Glebe, we have a professional. And whatever amount of money he makes, he earns it. How he doesn’t have a heart attack daily is beyond me. We have the same asshat parents who cut through a little side parking lot onto Glebe illegally), to avoid the light and the (OH MY GAWD THREE MINUTE WAIT!) which is extremely dangerous to the kids. At one point, the crossing guard parked his car across the exit, which curbed the behavior for a while. COME ON PEOPLE – SLOW DOWN – PAY ATTENTION – AND DRIVE RESPONSIBLY WHEN YOU ARE NEAR A SCHOOL. And all of the time, for that matter!

  4. omg, that’s awful….and, I have to admit, I am *that* parent who has no issues being directive to the patrols…I often hand-motion them to stay on the sidewalk or half-holler at them to open our door. My biggest beef is the other parents – invariably, somebody parallel parks in the block before the kiss and ride (technically not allowed at that time), then feels the entire line has to wait for her/him to get out of the parking space and make that tight u-turn. It’s okay, though, because his/her kids are dropped off. You know? Grr. (also, gym teacher did the kiss and ride recently and let my kids out without smiling or saying good morning. I almost called the principal but elder child pleaded with me to be merciful to an elderly crochety person, so, I let it pass..)

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