My office is on the outskirts of what my mother would have called a “seedy” part of town. I drive through Parramore at just about the same time each morning.
Over the last few months I’ve often noticed three young children on their way to their school bus, crossing the street alone. They are two girls and a boy, and I assume by their interaction that they are siblings. I’m guessing that the oldest girl is a fourth grader, the younger girl a second grader, and the boy a kindergartner. I notice them because they don’t fit in with the rest of the shady cast of characters wandering the streets – the ones that cause me to double and triple check my car door locks.
Every morning these children are clean, neatly dressed, and carrying backpacks. The two younger children often laugh and play while they wait to cross the street. But the oldest girl seems weary beyond her years. Her face reflects the weight of responsibility that a child her age should not have to feel. Her eyes dart from side to side, always watching her surroundings. Often she has her hands on her siblings’ shoulders, holding them back, then leading them safely across the street. She’s like a tiny crossing guard.
This morning I thought about my own carefree sixth grade daughters, who I dropped off safely at school that day just like I do every morning. I think of the mother of these three children and I imagine her struggles. I’ve created their story in my head. It’s clear these children are loved and cared for, and I feel sure that their mother would be walking with them if she could. Does she have to leave early in the morning to catch the bus to her job? Does she worry every day, wondering if her children made it safely to their bus stop? She must see weary face of her oldest child and wish that their life was different. More like mine. Easier. Even though most days I don’t feel like my life is easy, compared to so many, it really is.
Mothering is hard.
I like it when I’m first in line at the red light and I can let these three cross safely in front of my car. It makes me feel like a very tiny part of their mom’s village.