If getting the kids out the door on time were an Olympic sport, in our house we would be Lichtenstein: we wouldn't medal. To be fair, we’d be doing fine if we could get it together by 8:15 but, for some odd reason, the wheels seem to mysteriously fall off around this time. Suddenly, I realize that in my pursuit of making myself the perfect cup of tea, I have neglected to make the kids' lunches. Or, it's Track and Field day and my daughter can't find her sun hat. Or, no one brushed their teeth or hair. And why, Universe, when we step outside and realize that it's dropped 10 degrees colder overnight, can we never step back inside the house and instantly find our lucky toque? Suffice it to say, 8:15 to 8:35 a.m. can be the low point of the day.
Remember those visions you had of yourself while you were pregnant? You know the one: where you're cast as the ideal parent, laughing and smiling and walking off to school, early, with your children leading the way, skipping and holding hands and telling knock-knock jokes? Keep dreaming.
But even on my most Lichtenstein-y days, I know I have an ace up my sleeve when it comes to getting my kids to school safely and as close to on-time as is humanly possible for me. It's my school crossing guard, Luva. But Luva is more jewel than ace standing at the side of the highway of 7A - rain or shine - and sparkling through the gloom like a jewel in DayGlo orange. While I'm at home scraping mustard off of my pants,Luva is that parent stand-in I conjured in my pre-natal fantasies. Only she's way, way better, is nicer in the morning and gets to carry a giant stop sign. Plus, as an added bonus, she has the eyes and reflexes of a jungle cat (which are equally effective at spotting speeding cars and light-jumpers-too- busy-putting-on-eye-liner- to-notice-they-are-in-a-school-zone, as they are whining-heel-draggers-who-forgot-to-finish-their-toast), she is fiercely serious about her job and wields her Stop sign more as a calling than a call of duty (which is, how I secretly suspect, she sees her job). If I were a real estate agent trying to sell a house within a five-block radius, I would mention that she comes with the neighborhood. She's that much of a selling point.
Last week, the head of our local school association sent out a mass e-mail SOS. In an effort to cut costs, our township proposed to eliminate Luva's position on the side of the highway, as well those of her fellow guards across from the school and further down the street near a busy thoroughfare. As far as I know, an alternative has not been proposed.
Look, I appreciate that municipal governments are strapped for cash. And I love saving money as much as the next guy. I do. But isn't it time we had this conversation: how much is a child's life worth to us? I know mine are worth well more than the several thousand per year it takes to man those corners every day. Plus, as long as we're talking math, isn't putting even one child at risk as they cross a busy highway or intersection, just too much? Aren't crossing guards a symbol for community's that claim safety as a top priority? Plus, remind me: didn't I pick up a municipal flyer that claimed that my township was an "active community"? How can we pay lip service to that when our smallest, most impressionable local citizen aren't safe to walk or cycle to school each morning?
Several decades ago, a young boy was killed crossing the busy highway Luva so ardently watches over. A crossing guard was added. Several years afterwards, when that was a distant memory, another young child - a girl this time- was killed and a light was added. I know I'm not the only one who sees getting rid of the Luva's of this world as moving backwards. Isn't it time to put our money where our mouth is? Let's leave crossing guards alone.