Out of gas
It had been a lousy day.
The problem with homeschooling is that many of the opportunities for socialization with other children are offered late in the day to accommodate all of the children who go to school. We adjust our timing accordingly so that our kids can participate in a variety of activities with their peers.
Each time we set out, I check the mileage on the odometer. A few years ago, the gas gauge on the van stopped working. Ever since, I've been using the odometer to predict when I need to buy gas. Checking the gauge is a necessity I've habituated.
On one recent evening, as I settled squabbles over seating arrangements and passed out cookies to everyone wearing a seatbelt, my brain erased completely. I didn't check — and I needed to know that we had enough gas to get to town but not enough to get home.
I found out soon enough. Unfortunately, we were on the return trip. Shortly after pulling off of the main road and on to an itty bitty side street, the van stopped running, and instantly I knew why.
I sat for a moment in the dark on the side of the road and pondered what to do next. My head was racing. I needed to be calm for the children. A time of stress is a great opportunity to teach my children, but this was one of those lessons I really didn't want to study. I wanted to cry in frustration, but my tears wouldn't fill the gas tank. Having my 2-year-old yelling, "Mom, drive!" from the back was not particularly helpful.
Added to my frustration was the absolute certainty that this bit of stupidity on my part would not go unnoticed. Even if I could trek to the gas station with seven children in tow, there was no way this could remain my little secret. I had to call for help, and calling for help means admitting a mistake.
I hate doing that, even though I believe it is good for my children to see that parents make mistakes, too. I want Brian to make all the mistakes so I can remain smug about my motherly perfection.
Slowly, reason returned. As we are fairly new to the neighborhood, I wasn't sure at first where to find help. I remembered that a neighbor had given me her number. I called, and she agreed to shuttle the kids home for me. I called Brian next, and he had another neighbor's number. That neighbor went for a gas can.
About that time, a car drove up. The only car that passed in the 20 minutes I spent alongside the road was a neighbor I knew. She had a closer stash of gas, so she and her husband put gas in the tank and made sure I got safely on my way.
I lament to Brian at times that it seems like society is losing the sense of community I remember from my childhood. Online "friends" and other pursuits have taken the place of knowing the neighbors. As much as I didn't want to be stuck on the side of the road, the event served as a reminder to me: Community spirit is here. Sometimes you have to seek it out. Now the trick is to find other, less stressful ways to get to know the neighbors.
As we settled in for the evening, we had an opportunity to count our blessings as we said our evening prayers. Not only was my family safe at home and my sense of community restored, I also had a new topic for a column.
I am so blessed.
Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist and homeschooling mom in Meridian. Her homeschool blog can be found on the Appeal-Democrat website at appealdemocrat.com.