Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Police Are Watching

It was Saturday, and since there was plenty of work to do with our family business, I planned to go in to that office to get some things done. I played basketball at 8, ate breakfast, and then made some phone calls for our sick Olivia and for our broken computer, and by that time I felt I should just go in my sweats without showering or shaving; before walking out he door, Lynnette took one look at me and asked if I was going like that; I've learned some of the basic hints, so I put on a baseball cap so I wouldn't "scare anyone"... or maybe so that she wouldn't be embarrassed if I met anyone she knows.

Since Lynnette was working and doing chores, I offered to take Thomas, our 4-year-old who is infamous for throwing tantrums and being difficult at the worst possible times. (All our four kids are adopted; I'm afraid we would have stopped with him if he were our first.) There's always a chance that he'll throw a huge wrench in the plans, but he's definitely easier to handle one-on-one, so I hoped he would cost me at most a half-hour sitting in time-out.

I actually thought to bring along fruit snacks and his coat, which is not like me. I threw them in the seats along with the rest of my mess; when I've got multiple projects going on, you can see my disorganization spread throughout my car.

As we left, Thomas asked, "Can I ride my scooter?" He's a funny kid: sometimes he likes to walk to our destination while I drive close by, at least part of the way. Of course, he wanted to ride his scooter in the middle of the street; I made him ride on the other side of the street while I drove on my side, not too far ahead or behind lest he yell for me to stay close to him.

We went almost a mile, crossing one street and approaching the next street just before the freeway, so I said, "Thomas, I'd like to go fast now. Would you come in so we can go? You can have a fruit snack." He thought a sec and said "OK!" and brought his scooter across the street; I popped the trunk and fit his scooter in with the junk, then let him in the car and gave him a treat.

We took off, and as we got on the freeway I remembered his seat-belt, so I pulled over and buckled him in.

It's only 10 minutes to the downtown 4th South exit. We got off and headed to the next street. As I was waiting to turn onto 5th South I noticed a police car immediately behind me and to the left, angled to get right behind me and in front of the next car in line. Weird, I thought; you don't often see a cop doing something strange in traffic. As soon as I turned, his lights went on and he pulled me over. Great.

He came up to my window and asked me for my license and registration, but before I even got them he said, "I need you to put your keys on top of the car." OK... now I was getting a bit nervous. I instinctively went to my pockets, and of course he barked, "Get your hands out of your pockets, Sir." Sorry! Then he looked in the back and asked about Thomas, and said he'd need Thomas to get out of the car. OK... now I was extremely nervous. I start recalling stories about impersonators, and I wonder who I need to call to verify that everything's on the up-and-up. I asked him something (I don't recall what), and he quickly says, "We had someone report a man picking up a little boy on a scooter."

What a relief!

Seriously, that bit of information was a monumental shift in my perspective. One second earlier I was feeling scared and physically jittery, both for my son as well as myself. However, after hearing that, those feeling immediately washed away and I was genuinely appreciative and even giddy that a policeman was watchful enough to see us and stop us out of concern for Thomas; I was also glad that someone called in, worried for him... because this happened to be a situation where everything was extremely suspicious: a young Hispanic boy scooting along alone, followed by a grungy, white driver who offers him candy to get in a rather disheveled car. (I wonder these kinds of situations are actually common with me?)

The policeman took Thomas behind my car and knelt down to talk with him. Others arrived; I was asked if I had a picture, and other questions (such as if I had called anyone, since I had my phone out looking for pictures). They called Lynnette to ask her some questions, too. (You'll have to ask her about that sometime.) Police kept arriving until there were at least 8 around, with at least 5 police cars behind me as well as in the next lane over. I'm not exaggerating. Finally, they were fairly satisfied and they let me get out and be with Thomas; when they were totally finished I went around and shook everyone's hand. They gave Thomas a teddy bear. It was smiles all around... and especially for me. It turned into one of those cool times when you feel a glow for hours, appreciating people who have just done something magnificent for you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Helping My Own Kids

One morning recently I helped Ellie a little bit extra with her math. She was a bit hesitant, saying it's frustrating when she doesn't understand. True. But I tried to help visualize and take small steps through the calculations of area and volume. It seemed like she understood, but whether she did or not, afterward she told me: "You're good at teaching math. You actually explain it."