Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Peters boys
Last night as I was updating our budget spreadsheet, I got into one of those moods. The kind that begins with the thought, "Everyone else..." and ends in futile self-pity. This time around, the running theme was my kids:

Everyone else's kids get to play soccer and take swim lessons and take music lessons. Why is it so hard for us to find a way to afford it?

Everyone else's kids get to go to preschool. Where do they get the money for that?

Everyone else's kids get to wear nice clothes. Why do all of my kids' clothes have to come from the thrift store?

You get the picture...

This morning after dropping off the other four Peters at their respective Tuesday locations, I pulled up to a red light at a very busy intersection and spotted a tiny little boy across the street with his thumbs in the air and his arms waving frantically as if he were trying to flag down a car.

I switched lanes, crossed the street, and pulled up to the curb.

"My mommy is not home," he said, his voice quivering.

"Okay," I said, taking a quick breath. "Okay. I'm going to help you. Can you show me where your house is?"

He directed me to a tiny box of a house a short way down the street. Two cars were parked in the driveway, but when we knocked, no one answered.

I steered the boy past the broken glass littering the walkway that led to his house. He was barefoot and stunk like poop. "I'm going to take you to the police station, okay?" I said, strapping him into Rylan's carseat.

"Mmhm," he nodded, folding his arms in his lap. Except for that very first moment when he'd told me he was home alone, he was calm and quiet the whole time he was with me, never crying or complaining, never asking what was going on or where we were going. When I asked him a question, his replies were quick and to the point, but otherwise, he remained so silent, I could have forgotten he was there.

At the police station, I turned him over to an officer, and as I watched him walk away, never once glancing back at me, my chest filled with emotion. Not with affection for this boy I'd just met. Not with anger at his neglectful parents, whose story I don't know. But with heartbreaking sadness that a boy like him could exist and that there was so very little I could do.

I hope with all my heart that he had been taking a nap, and his mom, who'd been listening to the baby cry for an hour straight, had stepped out of the house for just a moment to walk the baby up and down the street, never imagining that her five-year-old would wake up and wonder where she was and would then run down the street desperate for someone to tell him where to find his mother.

I hope that's what happened, though I doubt it's so.

As I drove home, I thought about rushing to my boys' school, gathering them all up, and holding them so, so tightly. And as I stepped into my house, the tears still pooling in my eyes, I thought, "Erin Peters, you are a fool."

My kids are so lucky.


  1. That is so heartbreaking. I feel so glad that you were the one to stop and help him! If it makes you feel better, my kids don't do anything either -- it's true my older two are only 5 and 3, but lots of other kids do plenty at this age. No formal preschool. No sports, no lessons. Nada. In some ways, I think they are better off for it. But we are thinking of swim lessons this summer for the 5yo. After all, we live an hour from the ocean. And your kids certainly are lucky to have a responsible, dependable, earth-loving mom like you!

    1. I know it's a matter of differing priorities. I'm sure other people look at my family and say, "How can they afford that nice house? How can they take so many vacations? How do they afford local meat?" Most of the time I'm confident in the way we've prioritized, but sometimes (especially with my kids) I wish for more. I'm sad for the boy I met yesterday, but glad to have those experiences that remind me to be grateful and inspire me to do better.

      Your kids are lucky too!

  2. You didn't write this as a tear-jerker when you put it on Facebook.

  3. That little boy was lucky someone like you was willing to stop and help. I agree that your kids are so fortunate to have you and Michael - what more do they really need?

  4. You have very lucky boys!

    Thanks for helping out that little kid too....


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