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Why I drove so slowly to the school this morning

I could see you in the rearview mirror. You sat in the back row of the van, your head bowed. You had a pencil. The only reason I knew about it was because you chewed on the eraser.

I drive these roads every day, four times a day. The curves, hills, trees in the mid-distance, mountains in the far distance—all known by heart. I could do the drive blindfolded. I could do it while asleep in the backseat. I’ve done it in my dreams. There are two places along the road where people have died. Their roadside memorials have become a part of the landscape as much as the giant cottonwoods in the bald eagle preserve, as much as fall and spring mornings when fog lies on the mountains like a shawl and rises from the lake like a sigh.

Because I know the road so well, I tend to drive with determination and with the flow of the other cars. But today, I could see you in the rearview mirror. You looked a little tired. Last night was rough. There were tears. The school year is a month deep and you are still trying to find your bearings. I know you will, you always do.

You needed time, so I slowed down. If a motorcycle cop was lurking behind one of the bushes or in a gravel driveway, I’d have no worries. Good citizen award for me.

When we approached the first traffic light on our drive, I silently sent and “I’m sorry” to you. It was green. A red light would have been better. It’s usually red, right? We turned a corner and I saw you look up, look around, get your bearings. I slowed down a little more. The second and last light was thankfully red. I smiled at the cars that made left turns in front of us, making sure there were no more before proceeding. Turn right, turn left, turn right. School.

I idled around the driveway until I couldn’t drive any farther. School rules state this is when kiddos must exit vehicles. Four siblings leapt out. You were last. Your backpack was open. I told you to have a good day.

I tried, sweetheart.

I hope you got your homework done.


I’m participating in Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary’s Just Write. I wrote the post in my head on the way home from school. During the drive home, the biggest coyote I’ve ever seen trotted across the road in front of me. Had I driven faster, I would have missed him.

15 comments to Why I drove so slowly to the school this morning

  • I feel like I rode in the car with you. My heart is a little raw now. I’m just beginning the journey where I have to watch my children struggle on their own. I can cheerlead, but I cannot do it for them. It’s hard.

  • sonja

    I don’t know why – but I teared up and then just outright cried while reading this. My oldest is kinda shy and middle school is a tough place to make new friends. I try to drive a little slower some days and dawdle on the way home in case he feels like sharing. Thanks for your beautiful words.

  • Jenn

    Beautiful words my friend.

  • Your words are beautiful and touching! With two in school now, K and 1st grade, I find myself re-living my own days of school. The good and the bad. It’s so hard to see them struggling…but I try to remind myself it’s just part of growing up! AND – sometimes I really wish they didn’t have to grow up (me neither!)!

  • This was gorgeously written. Wow.

  • Kira

    This touched my heart today. I have done this. There are days I want to just turn the car around and bring one of them back home with me. If only life were that simple. They must find their way – and someday they will know and understand how I sent my heart to school with them on those days when life seemed to be too much.

  • Ann

    My kids will be starting at new schools soon. I’m so nervous for them. I hope it doesn’t take them long to make new friends and find their way around. I have a feeling I’ll be driving extra slow too, but maybe more for me than them.

  • Some mornings you really do just want to keep them with just a little bit longer.

  • You and your beautiful-ness.

    I loved this so much. I felt like I was looking in the rear view mirror with you and trying and trying to take my time. You are such a gift to those kids. I know they are to you, too, so much…but really, Mama…you have so much grace.

  • Amy

    This was beautiful, Gretchen. Made me think of all the mornings when I’ve had to drive slow.

  • You have such a way with words. I feel like I was in the van with you.

  • Heth

    Beautiful. A mother’s heart can break for her kids so many different ways.

  • So beautifully written by such a beautiful person!

    I hope that the next time I’m in a similar situation, I can follow your example and extend a little grace to my child instead of my more natural reaction, which would be to scold.

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