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November 27, 2015

Officer Friendly

I'm a slow reader, a quick study, and a late bloomer.  These labels don't cause me a fraction of the trouble that my tendency to drive above the speed limit does.  Over the years, I've been nabbed for speeding now and then.  As a college student I applied for supervision knowing my upcoming study abroad plans left little chance that I would be detected by domestic radar.  Bullet dodged.  A few years back with a car packed with kids, I managed to sob my way out of tickets left and right.  I assume that driving a car brimming with sweet, staring faces helped my cause.  After sharing with Officer Friendly how one unruly kid's behavior had disrupted my ability to transport the clan to an activity, he typically took pity on me.  In about 12 months time, I was pulled over 6 times.  Eventually, yellow warning pages littered the floor of the car. 

One morning an 8th grade Laddie requested that I drive him to school early for a review session.  Recognizing that I could not clone myself and knowing that adding an additional driving route to our morning was recipe for disaster, I created a rule to protect my sanity for this newly occurring situation.  Any kid who needed an abnormal a.m. departure time must assist me in some way with the morning routine before getting in the car.  After packing some lunches, I hollered to Laddie over my shoulder to help his little sisters with their breakfast while I darted off to get dressed.  After all, how could I spend time driving one kid to school while the remaining younger kids' morning was stalled?  An extra set of hands dedicated to prepping kids for the day proved necessary to keep some momentum going before I stepped out to haul a kid somewhere early.  Moments later the girls whined up the stairs because Lad had refused to pour milk on their cereal.  Too much to juggle and too many prior Laddie-responsibility-refusals led to the pressure of the morning erupting inside of me.  I grabbed Laddie and pinned him to the kitchen floor.  I slapped at his shoulder and screamed in his face.  Not my proudest mommy-of-the-year moment.  Knowing that his academic situation would benefit from a review session, I chose to growl at him to get in the car while I added milk to the girls' bowls.  Looking back I wish I had calmly refused to transport him.  Let him deal with his crappy grades and his teacher's wrath.  Rookie-parent of a teenager move.  Forever the early riser, Reg appeared fed, dressed, and ready for the day.  I corralled him to the car in order to remove one of the 'moving parts' from the home-alone scenario. 

I expressed myself loudly for the first few miles of our trek to school.  Then I noticed the lights.  How long had they been there?  Being pulled over driving the great white, I struggled to find an adequate spot on the shoulder for my big rig.  I shared a few more choice words with Laddie before the officer approached.  When the cop questioned my speed, I broke down.  I explained how my teenager in the back seat had interfered with the morning's progress.  I briefly described my 'flying solo' morning, my big brood, and Laddie's nonsense. By refusing to encourage a stay-on-task-breakfast, he had derailed the morning.  I even pointed out that I left four kids under 11 at home under-supervised to drive Laddie to a review session.  These kids were now in jeopardy of arriving tardy to school.  Wouldn't be the first time.

Not only did I skate out of a possible ticket, but the officer took up my cause and drove home the point with Laddie.  He leaned close to my open window and pointed at Lad in the back seat.  'Is this the teenager?' he asked.  Then he began to bellow his disapproval.  He demanded that this 8th grader clean up his act and help out his busy mother.  He hesitated to ask me if Laddie was able to hear him.  Recognizing that my left ear drum was suffering from his booming volume, I assured him that his message was being heard.  Laddie continued to stare straight ahead and appear frozen.  Eventually the cop explained to us that he didn't want to hear that these issues were continuing.  He instructed me to have a good day and strolled back to his vehicle.  Perched on the bench seat next to Laddie, 5 yr. old Reggie's mouth hung open and his eyes bulged.  Laddie muttered that he should have told the officer about the child-abuse-like beating he had received that morning.  That was the most fulfilling pull-over I've ever encountered.

Unfortunately in addition to being a slow reader, a quick study, and a late bloomer, I'm also apparently a slow learner.  My warnings have since evolved into citations.  Laddie's willingness to pitch in at home issues have persisted, so I suppose he takes after his mother in the slow learning department. 

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