It was dreary Thursday, driving our little buddy home from preschool. My mini-van was full with three five-year-olds and a toddler, all buckled into their carseats. A weather alert came over the radio and I found myself answering question after question. I was trying to explain the difference between a tornado warning and a tornado watch, as well as how it wasn’t even in our county, followed by an explanation of what counties are…the questions just kept coming.
For a blessed moment, the van was quiet. Then, an uncertain little voice behind me asks:
“Are we safe?”
I see police lights in my rearview mirror.
In the endless question answering, I had not been paying attention to my speed. As I pulled over to the side of the road, I tried to calmly fill the kids in on what’s going on:
“I was driving faster than the speed limit on this road. This police officer is going to come and tell me to slow down and give me a ticket.”
“What’s a ticket?”
“It says I have to pay money to the city for breaking the law.”
They were all stone silent as the officer approached the window. I was well aware of the four sets of eyes and ears zeroing in on everything that was happening, but also fighting that feeling of rising panic. I realize my wallet containing my license is NOT in my purse, which is something that can easily happen when you live with a toddler.
Panic wins. I go into hot mess mom mode immediately.
I apologize right away. He patiently lets me explain my inadvertent speeding as well as the fact that I do NOT have my wallet with me. He assures me that it’s ok if I don’t have my license. Am I the registered owner of the vehicle?
Wait – am I? I own it – we own it. Although I don’t remember ever signing anything for it. Maybe just my husband owns it, but I drive it all the time. Why do I not know these things?!
He just needs my registration and insurance card.
I fumble through the center console. Fruit pouches, grippy socks for the trampoline parks, Veggie Tales CDs, cell phone chargers….where ARE those little cards?!
The glove box! They have to be in there, right?!
I fling open the glove box, causing my forgotten emergency stash of pads and tampons to rain down onto the pile of reusable shopping bags covering the floor below. I tell myself he didn’t see it.
Is it in this black zippy thing? No, that’s the owner’s manual. Kleenex, flashlight….oh my gosh, they aren’t here. They aren’t HERE! What do they DO with people who have a van load of kids AND no license, proof of insurance, or registration?! WAIT! There they are!
He seems just as relieved as me. He took them and went back to his squad car. THANK GOODNESS.
While he’s in his squad car, finding all the dirt on me (spoiler alert – it’s speeding tickets), I’m right back at the mercy of the preschool question gang behind me:
“No, he doesn’t keep the money for the ticket. The city gets the money.”
“To pay people who take care of our city like road workers, firefighters, police officers, and librarians.”
“I don’t know how much it will be.”
“I hope it’s not as much as an American Girl doll, either.”
“Yes, he probably is someone’s daddy.”
“I don’t know if he has a dog.”
“Maybe he does want a dog. You could ask him when he comes back.”
He’s back. I brace myself.
I have no idea how much speeding tickets set you back these days, but it’s sure to be much more than I make in a day of taking care of our little buddy. Despite having no license and speeding down the road with a van load of kids he says, “I think you’ll learn your lesson with a warning. Just slow down out there.”
“Really?“ I laughed in disbelief and earnestly thanked him.
“Where’s the ticket?” my daughter demanded as he walked away.
“He didn’t give me one,” I replied, still in disbelief. “I deserved that ticket. I broke the law and the consequence is paying for the ticket. Instead of a ticket, he gave me something I didn’t deserve. Do you know what it is?”
I’m happy I was pulled over with my van load of kids. I’m grateful that they got to see me mess up and apologize. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to accept responsibility for my actions in front of them and do what I needed to make it right. Above all, I’m happy that they got to see a police officer in action, being an example of patience and grace.
To finally answer the unanswered question, “Are we safe?”
Yes, buddy. We are safe.
We are safe because of our police officers. They keep our streets safe by stopping people like me from speeding. They help people who are in danger of hurting themselves or others. We are safe because of they show up every time they are called. When anyone calls 911, they will rush to help as fast as they can. We are safe because they deal with the tough stuff in our city every single day.
Instead of thanking our local officer for not giving me the speeding ticket I deserved, I wish I would have thanked him for having the perseverance to do a dangerous and thankless job. I should have let my children hear me thank him for his bravery and dedication to protect and serve citizens like us.
I wish I would have thanked him for keeping us safe.
This post is one of our 5-part Police Week series. Be sure to check out the others here:
Make sure you never miss out on a parenting or community-related blog post: sign up to receive CRMBposts in your inbox. While you’re at it, join our VIP List to ensure you’re one of the first to know about upcoming Cedar Rapids Moms Blog events and promotions!!