Crime and Shoelaces

I don’t even know how to begin to process this day.

Let me start by saying that the reason women should stay home and not work outside the home is that kids need shoelaces in their shoes and someone to comfort them when they are traumatized. And I really needed to be that person today. Yes, daddies can re-lace shoes and provide comfort, but what if I want to be the one who does that? After all, I got to carry them around for nine months (OK, more like 45 months, plus another month for their combined lateness) and I got to bring them forth into this world…and I AM THE MOMMY.

There is an episode of Mad About You that takes place right before Jamie gives birth. She and Paul are arguing about who is going to do what after the baby is born, and she basically has this moment of realization where she says, and then says repeatedly as it starts to sink in: “I’m the mommy!” She travels the spectrum from indignation to trepidation to abject fear, as the full scope of those three words sinks in and she realizes how much her life is going to change. I love that scene, because it captures, with a light touch, what I couldn’t have known the first time I saw it: That the privilege and responsibility of being a mother is alternately a blessing and burden, a joy and a hardship. The children themselves are not the hardship; it’s the attendant chaos and complication and challenges that really get ya’ down.

So what happened today? Well, it’s a nearly impossible task to paint the full picture, but the highlights are that we started off the day fighting about homework. Then, that fight was interrupted by a full blown crime scene unfolding out our front window. No one was hurt, thankfully, but a would-be robber attempted to steal items out of a school bus, traumatizing the kids on the bus, the mother who was getting her child on the bus, the bus driver, and finally, my children, who witnessed Act II of the unfolding drama – suspect running away and mother screaming for help – right out our front window.

Did I mention that the bus was one for special needs kids? Yes, that’s another lovely detail of the whole story. The guy actually pulled over in his own car in order to rob the school bus, which was idling in front of our neighbor’s house while she was helping her son into his seat. He stepped into the bus, said he had a gun (which he probably did not), and tried to take a few children’s backpacks before grabbing the bus driver's briefcase and running back to his car. This is when our neighbor, started screaming for the Police, which is what brought us all to our front window.

Rick ran outside to help the mom, our neighbor, and I ran to the phone to call the police. Our kids were left to get an eyeful of the commotion outside. They saw the guy running to his car, confronting their dad and exchanging a few words, flinging the bag he had stolen and driving away. They saw the poor mom screaming after the guy, clearly shaken to her core. They saw neighbors come streaming out of their houses. They could hear me, shaky myself, talking to the 911 dispatcher and telling her what little I could. It was an intensified few minutes. It was very upsetting to the kids.

One of our kids, in particular, was extremely upset. He wanted to know:

"Why would someone do that? Don’t people like that care that there are children in the world, and things like that scare them? I hate all this grown-up stuff, why did this have to happen, what is going on…”

And on and on and on. We had quite the ride to school, culminating with the child in question saying:

"I can’t get the pictures out of my head! I feel like it happened to me; I feel like something precious was taken from me."

I reassured him that nothing of his was taken, that he was safe, that he would be safe for the entire day, blah de blah de blah. But of course, I was thinking how something precious was indeed taken from him: the ability to believe that bad things don’t happen right outside his front door.

And the shoelaces. Vincenzo’s school shoes got so messed up last night that Rick cut the laces out of them. Today was a free dress day at school, and knowing this, I figured he would wear other shoes and give me a day to get new laces. I forgot that the kid is down to two pairs of shoes, not counting sandles. And we couldn’t find the second pair. In all of the excitement over the school bus incident, I didn’t even realize he was shoe-less until very late in the game. The shoe drama unfolded like this. Keep in mind that in the background, we have upset kids still processing the crime scene, so to speak. Maybe his shoes are in the truck? Oh wait, Rick is down the street giving a police report, and I don’t have a key to his truck. Call Rick, he can’t come back to the house yet, he really is talking to the police. Finally a neighbor brings me Rick’s keys, I check the truck, the shoes aren’t there. OK, where else? The soccer bag! Into the garage to try to find the soccer bag. And yes! The shoes are there. But they are SOAKED and muddy from the soccer game on Saturday, and they’ve been sitting in that bag for four days. They’re gross. Back to square one. No extra laces in the all-purpose kitchen drawer. No other shoes in his room I can take laces out of. Head to girls’ room, where I finally find a pair with plain white laces I can use. Rip them out of Lola’s shoes, string them into Vincenzo’s. Great, now he will go to school with his feet inside of shoes. Hallelujah.

I was handling all of this while keeping in mind that I had to get to work on time. Not because I work for ogres, but because I really need to get some work done, and the to-do list there is ever increasing. I was handling all of this while packing 5 lunches, remembering to sign and return 3 progress reports, finding $5 for the donation to the homeless shelter the school is doing, trying to calm the fears and anxieties of the masses, trying to explain how evil exists in the world, trying to be a rock of calm and steady perseverance for my children, as we rocked in a sea of chaos.

And it upset me, that I couldn’t just stop the world and give all of us the time and space we needed in order to enter the day peacefully. The racing and rushing is tough most days, but today, it nearly did me in. I had one of those moments when I wished with all my heart that I wasn’t working outside the home, that I could be one of those moms who has five packets of shoe laces in her all-purpose kitchen drawer, who can take as much time as necessary to calm fears and soothe worries.

And the day closes with chaos still swirling about. Boys still awake and not settling down. Noodles all over one corner of the dining room (thank you, 2-year old). Dirty dishes on every inch of countertop. Laundry threatening to achieve world domination. Legos everywhere. Truly everywhere. Work to do. Miles to go. Children to love.

I know we will make; I just don’t have a clue how.


nicole said…
I have tears in my eyes. Hang in and hang on. Remember the movie Parenthood and at the end Steve Martin's character is watching his kids school play and feels like his life is a roller coaster.
fern said…
Ohhh, I am so sorry. I still have a bit of that overwhelmed feeling myself sometimes, even now that my husband is home and we only have one kid in school and while I'm working a lot, I don't have to be anywhere at a certain time. But your last paragraph describing the mess and chaos all over, when you're already spent from the day, put me RIGHT back to my mental state when I was working full time and had three toddlers and was great with child and exhausted and just couldn't do anything well enough.

Keep breathing and keep plugging away. :)

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