The Lower Lip Tremble knows no mercy.
How ‘bout a pile driver? The ninja beating-heart-in-your-hand-trick? Anything, anything but the LLT.
Whack! My face hits the mat in a toddler smack-down. The sincerity slays me as my daughter’s eyes fill up, chubby arms reaching, one word escaping her quivering lips in a moaning, “Mama.”
Day care center drop off is not for the weak. You fake it. You strap a facade of bravery to your face like a Mexican wrestling mask. Muster a smile, give a peppy wave and walk away. Quickly. Without looking back. Otherwise the LLT becomes the beginning swirl of a torrential tearful temper tantrum, compounded by presence and inflated by maternal guilt.
We had a doozy of a LLT morning beginning my second week of work. Logically, I know it takes time to adjust. We’d just moved to a new place. I’d just returned to work full time. I was asking a lot of my just-turned three-year-old. But LLTs linger on an emotional level where logic holds no sway. I got to work with my mask on, but I wobbled beneath.
My first assignment that day — follow up on a potential human interest story. A downstate mom thanked “an unknown woman” on the Record-Eagle’s Facebook page for helping her son. It was a polar vortex morning. Schools were canceled and meteorologists told us to stay indoors else our delicate bits would rot and blacken. Her 21-year-old “baby’s” truck died on South Airport Road at dawn, in the dark.
The boy set out on the two-mile walk to Walmart for a new battery. A car drove by; he stuck out his thumb. It stopped. The woman at the wheel drove him to Walmart, waited for him to buy his battery and returned him to his truck. She took neither money, nor doughnut, telling the boy stopping was just something “people should do.”
The boy told his mom the story, and his mom, thrilled that her boy was safe, left a grateful note on the Facebook page with hopes that “unknown woman” would see it.
Turns out — I knew the unknown woman. Conversational clues from mother and son pointed directly at a culprit I knew pretty well, actually - my daughter’s day care teacher. The same woman — that same LLT morning — just picked up another mother’s child by the side of the road. It was sheer serendipity that I’d been assigned that story. It was sheer small town that I’d be able to identify her so easily, solving the unknown woman mystery in about an hour.
As we chit-chatted on the phone, the grateful mom caught me up with a simple, offhand comment. “I don’t like my boys to be cold, you know, but one lives in Traverse City and the other in Marquette. It’s hard with them so far away,” she said. That a woman picked up her son made her feel a little better, she said.
That my daughter’s teacher was the kind of person who’d help someone in trouble made this worried mamma suddenly feel a whole lot better, too.
She’d said, “I don’t want my boys to be cold.”
I get that. So basic, so true. You don’t ever want your kids to be cold — or hungry, or lonely, or sick, or sad, or ever see that precious lower lip tremble. And yet.
You can ratchet up the thermostat but the child has to go outside sometime. Wind blows. Germs travel. Delicate bits freeze. And eventually, parents work, relying on other people to help out with their precious children.
I’m glad Ms. Faye is looking out for mine. Between her good heart and my resolve, the LLT doesn’t stand a chance.
Reach Record-Eagle writer Allison Batdorff at email@example.com.