Dash’s new school is ten miles away. It’s a straight shot around the Beltway, and except for the home-to-school run in the morning, it takes 15 minutes door to door. The morning run to school takes anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. Maybe longer; we haven’t had a rainy day yet. This commute (no bus, nobody close to carpool with) is clearly going to be one of the less fabulous aspects of the new school, but we knew that. B and I take turns with the morning run, but of course I’m always the lucky candidate for the afternoon pickup. So between our two cars we’re driving 40 extra miles every day, with me spending an hour and a half in the car on a day when I drive him to school as well as back. I can’t wait for next week, when there’s a parent association meeting on Wednesday evening so I get to go over one more time that day.
But driving in good weather, even on a slow road, is fine. We have the radio, for news – educational! – in the morning and music in the afternoon. I can talk myself through some knotty plot holes when I’m on my own; I find talking to myself in the car is very productive, and nobody else knows I’m not on a handsfree phone call, right?
Really, the mental adjustment is about having one child so much farther away from me than I’m used to. It just gives me a tiny niggle when I think about emergencies, or bad weather, or terrible things like, say, for instance, what happened on this day fourteen years ago. I wasn’t even in the country, let alone a parent, then; I worried about my boyfriend but he was safely in Pennsylvania, and not in a field or on a plane. But if we’d lived here, if my kids had been at school that day, we would all have huddled together as soon as we could, to hold what’s dearest closest to our hearts.
In the winter, Dash’s school will follow the decisions of the county next to ours when it comes to late openings and early closings and cancellations. Mabel’s school, of course, just up the road, is in our own county, so they may have different decisions on the same day, in the same weather. And we’ll have to get onto the Beltway in snow or ice or storm to go and get him, or bring him there. (Then again, the Beltway is always the first to be attended to with salt and grit when there’s bad weather. It’s usually the minor roads that are harder to pass.)
I know that if I was held up getting Dash from school, for whatever reason, the friend who picks up Mabel would take her home with them for as long as was needed. I know that we all have mobile phones that allow us to communicate in emergencies (assuming I (a) remember to bring it and (b) remember to charge it). I know that statistically everything will probably be fine. I know that Dash would be looked after if I didn’t make it to the school because I was stuck on the road waiting for the AAA truck. I know that we have two cars, which helps a lot on days like this when the Check Engine light comes on and I ask B if he can bike to work so that I can bring the one car to the garage and still have the other for 3pm pickup time.
But it was nice when they were both a short walk away, all day, and I felt that no matter what happened I could run up the road (panting) and grab my babies and stick them under my wing and keep them safe from every sort of harm.
I suppose the distances are only going to get bigger as they get older, right? This is just the first leap.