One Child Left Behind
It was bound to happen. My schedule changes so frequently. Working three days of the week, son in kindergarten then off to afternoon care, daughter in daycare. Two days a week I am home: toting the boy to school, caring for the baby girl, then back to school mid-day to pick the boy up. Add to this that my husband, who works as a cameraman and TV editor, is frequently traveling, and also has a schedule that changes day to day - and let's just say if we didn't have a giant white board telling us what to do next...we'd forget what to do next.
And so it was inevitable that the moment I would find a free minute to spare for myself, something would go dreadfully wrong.
I spent that minute checking in on my garden. Cool season vegetables can be so finicky. You really need to keep an eye on them. My 9 month-old daughter was in a happy place and willing to play in her exersaucer in the backyard with me. The alternating hot and cold weather and the constant threat of snails were worrying me. Would the weather cause my broccoli to bolt and produce flowers instead of veggie? Would the rain bring the snails to feast on my cauliflower? Besides my children, these are the thoughts that keep me up at night. But suddenly another thought: what time is it? I ran past my daughter, into the kitchen, and there it was - staring me in the face: 12:00pm. The exact time my son gets out of school.
I should mention at this point that thanks to No Child Left Behind (ironically) my son doesn't go to our neighborhood school but instead goes to a school about 15 minutes away.
So...GASP! Run, toss the gardening gloves off. Grab the baby. Throw her in car seat. Lock her in. Jump in the car and off we went! The whole ride over I was thinking to myself, "What happens to kindergartners when their parents forget to pick them up?" Do they just hang out playing on the playground? Do they try to find their way home? Do they make their way to the local liquor store, buy a pack of cigarettes and immediately fall into a life of crime where they constantly reference the turning point as "the day my mother forgot about me."
I was a bit stressed and admit I was crying for most of the drive. I assumed other 5 year-olds were occasionally abandoned and there must be some policy. I settled myself by saying the nice lady who normally picks him, and the other kids up for afternoon care on campus probably took pity on my dear son and brought him along as well (after all she did buy him lunch the day I forgot to send him with food...so hey, why not take him when I've forgotten about him altogether, right?).
I got to the school. I parked. I grabbed the baby out of the car seat and ran to the afternoon care, running past his classroom in case he was sitting there, alone. No. Not there. As soon as I approached the building, I slowed my pace, not wanting to bust the door open and scream, "Is my child here?" I peeked in the window as I approached the door and saw him sitting, eating the snack I had packed him, looking quite content. I exhaled. I caught my breath. I opened the door.
"Boy...look who's here!" The nice lady who did in fact take pity on my son (once again) said in a sing-songy voice. Boy turned quickly (in more ways than one) and stood up. He glared at me, jettisoned his arm out, pointed at me and screamed, "Where were you? It was like I was living in a nightmare!" Then he threw himself on the ground, sobbing uncontrollably.
All the kids jumped up from their seats, tossing their lunches aside, and crowded around my son, petting his hair, patting his back, asking if he's OK, and a few children, for good measure, gave me dirty looks. Knowing my son was safe, and now watching this spectacle, I felt alternately amused and horrified: amused because, well, come on, what's not to be amused by? And horrified because even people who barely know me would watch this scene play out and say, "Wow..he's just like you!" I thought back to all the times I've acted in such a dramatic manner over my lifetime and I cringed.Continued on the next page