Heart Drops, Woman Survives

Sending your kids off to school each day is really an exercise of faith. I’ve thought on this before, as I contemplated the unlocked gates at the edges of the school yard, the other people driving my kids somewhere, and the open nature of the way we live. Anything can happen- and yet, mostly we coast along blissfully enjoying Normal.

Jeffrey signed up for choir a few months ago; they have a performance next Monday, so an extra practice was scheduled today. The mama I share carpool with is leading the choir, and she said she would bring Jeffrey home. Score! I usually drive the afternoon shift, so ran errands instead shuttling kids.

Heading home from errands, David was walking back from the bus-stop with Abby and Beanie. Rolling down the window we chatted “No Jeffrey yet, huh? He shook his head and hefted Bean into passenger-side window for the four-house drive home.

Hmmm- I wonder why they are taking so long? As I’m reaching for the phone to call my carpool companion, it rings, “Hello?” I don’t recognize the caller ID. ” Hello??”

“Um, may I ask who is calling, please?” Jeffrey says from the other end of the phone. “Jeffrey! Where are you?”  Here is where I learn how getting accurate information from a seven-year-old boy is nigh unto impossible. He begins to ramble on about the gym, the library, the teacher is gone, there are some balls, school is empty, I wasn’t there… I am trying to piece together what he is saying, and ask him, in my best  I’m Calm and not Panicking at ALL voice to please hand the phone to a grown up…

A mom takes the phone.  She tells me Jeffrey is the last kid at school, everyone is gone, and should she stay with him or would I like to meet her at the YMCA?

WHAT? Holy…what…where…what happened…crap…who… how on EARTH…what? WHAT? WHAT???!

How did my kid, who was supposed to be at CHOIR practice, end up alone at his elementary school? I have a million questions, but by now I am roaring down the road, and half way to the school. I dare a cop to stop me. I cannot believe… how… WHAT?

Pulling into the school (rather, I bounce, because I hit a curb in my, er, eagerness) I see my little boy, oh so little looking, with his backpack and coat, sitting with this mom, the doors are locked, the lights are out, everyone has gone home.

Jumping from the car, I gather him in my arms, hug/squeeze him as tight as I can, which quickly turns into dontyoueverdothisagainyoungman, doyouhearme!

The mom tells me she was there with her kids playing in the gym, and as the other kids went home, Jeffrey was the last kid. When it was time for her to go, she didn’t want to leave him there. She offered her phone so he could call home. I thank her profusely, embarassed and chagrinned and releived and confused and sick all at the same time.

Jeffrey safely buckled into MY car, we head home. “So what the heck happened, Jeffrey? Why were you in the gym and not at choir practice? Do you know how much that frightened me and dad?” I heard a convoluted and confusing story of the library, wandering around, playing with some kids, checking where I normally pick him up, and then deciding playing in the gym was a good idea.

I call my carpool mama. She is freaking out. She had no idea. When Jeffrey didn’t show up for Choir, she just assumed I had picked him up, since it wasn’t a regular practice day.

“Why didn’t you go to choir, Jeffrey? AND WHY ON EARTH.. oh hell. I give up until we get home.

David and I sit down in the kitchen with him and try to figure out what happened.  Near as we can tell, and it’s still spotty:

  • He says he forgot it was choir day, but on pressing from Dad, he says he doesn’t want to be in choir anymore.
  • After wandering around looking for me, he just opted to hang out and play, and after a while, all the other kids went home, and he was the only one left.

All while I was assuming my kid was safely at choir practice and would be home safely, like he is every day.  I’m still reeling. I can’t figure out if this is all my fault, if this is crossed wires, if this is Jeffrey being an innocent little kid, if I need to go to the school and ring some necks, if this was Jeffrey being a naughty twerp and skipping choir…

I mean WHAT IF THAT MOM HAD JUST LEFT!?!?  Oh, the WHAT-IFS are just going to kill me on this one…

Do I go to the school? Clearly, at home we are revising and laying down some Law- but this is just… it’s too… AUuuuugh! I just can’t believe it… I need a tranquilizer.

15 thoughts on “Heart Drops, Woman Survives

  1. I am there with you. You are not over-reacting. I would talk to someone at school, I can’t believe the teacher would leave without making sure every student in her class is where they need to be, with another adult being responsible for there care. There should never be a moment without supervision.

    Try to get your brain to leave the What-ifs alone, they will make you crazy. Easier said than done, I know.

    Be so thankful that one mom was looking out for him. Remember it when you are the one mom and there is a child alone on the playground. Find out who that mom was and tell her how grateful you are and that she wasn’t being nosey she was being so awesome to care for your child. (And I’d have to tell her every detail of the story so she would understand that I didn’t leave my child, who I care for with every fiber of my being, unattended).

  2. I am part of a major neighborhood carpool system and we have days with kids in Art, Japanese School, choir, you name it and all of us make sure that kids that are part of our carpool are with a parent/teacher/or are already in class before we leave. But we also get out of the car and I know a lot of parents don’t do that, we just have a lot of kids we are all responsible for.

    What is amazing is that there is no one at the school to see Jeff! I mean, do those people book out with the students, or what? Our admins and teachers are onsight until 4:30 and we get out at 2:30. I would definitely call the school!

    But…super kudos to Jeff for knowing your phone number and I can tell he clearly wasn’t scared at all! Ahhhh…boys!

  3. Oh my. We take such care to keep them safe and still…life happens. I wish my nerves were as resilient as my kids are.

    I’m so glad he was safe and sound.

  4. First of all, the teacher should have known where every student is, yes. Our teachers can’t leave until every student is accounted for. HOWEVER, it’s highly possible that she assumed Jeff was at choir, just like you did, if that’s what he does every Wednesday. She probably ‘checked him off’ in her brain as being safe in choir.

    Stuff like this happens. It’s scary as hell, but it happens. Let me reiterate – scary.

    One time I left my little dude on the kinder playground while I did parent/teacher conferences for my 2nd grader. He had strict instructions to STAY. I mean, hey 5-10 minutes tops, it was a playground he knew, there were lots of kids and adults around, and I lectured. When I came out, he was gone. I wigged. I mean, it was conferences, the staff schedule was weird, nobody was in charge of him, it was ALL ME! HOLY CRAP! Most of the other kids and adults were gone too. There was a mom on the playground who said some kids had gone into the adjoining classroom for aftercare, maybe I could check there? She had seen me drop him off and lecture him about STAYING, so she knew who I was talking about.

    I walked into that classroom, and he was there, HAVING A SNACK, with the other kids whose parents were at work. The aftercare staff just assumed he was theirs (um, hi, know your kids much?) and had told him to come in. He just followed the adults who told him where to go. I couldn’t blame him (almost 5) for going with the other kids and listening to the adults, but I could sure blame myself! The what-ifs freaked me out too.

  5. You just never know…life happens and it is scary but he was safe and happy and probably just being 7. It will be nice when D is back to normal…I hear you with the what ifs…I do it a lot with D’s arm…

    Here’s to spring and safe, healthy, happy kidos. Miss you guys.

  6. I can totally see how that would happen. Teacher thinks he went to choir, carpooler thinks he’s with you, you think he’s with her… But yay for the mom who didn’t just walk on by. I think that’s the only reason I do feel safe sending my kids off to school or karate or wherever. I just hope that even if I’m not there and something goes amiss–which it’s bound to do now and then–a mom will be there to help out.

  7. “if this is Jeffrey being an innocent little kid”

    Yes.

    Maybe it’s because my six-year-old is my sixth child, but I’m almost immune to the freak-out factor that used to hit. Let me share an example of why:

    My six-year-old walks into our house with a friend after school. (We live right next to her school – literally.) This friend usually takes the bus home, where her grandmother watches her until her parents arrive. Of course, I ask if her parents know where she is. My daughter says, “She said it’s ok.”

    So, I ask for her phone number. She doesn’t know it. I ask for her last name and address. She knows her last name and street name, so I go to whitepages.com and find out her phone number is unlisted. I call the school and explain what happened. They can’t give me her phone number (obviously), so they promise to call and let her parents know what’s going on.

    They can’t reach anyone at the house, so the principle (who knows our family very well after seeing all six of our kids in her school) walks over to our house and takes my daughter’s friend back to the school until someone calls back and takes her home.

    This stuff happens, because these are kids. I know that looking back after over 15 years of dealing with elementary school kids. *sigh*

    Bottom line, don’t blame yourself – and don’t blame Jeffrey too much.

  8. Oh my gosh, the worst is the random friend coming over that says their parents said it was “okay”!! I haven’t had that one in a while, but my youngest are about to get to that age again. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Oh, scary.

    Based on the kids in my current and past 4 CTR-8 classes (all 7 turning 8), completely forgetting to go to choir practice on an unscheduled day and going off to play instead seems pretty normal (or deciding specifically to NOT go to the practice because they don’t want to do choir anymore, entirely normal also). I have no idea whether he skipped choir on purpose or just completely forgot, but either way, I think it was just him being 7.

    Not that that makes it any less scary.

    Hooray for moms who stop and think and help. I’m glad you got your little man back home safe without any incidents or accidents.

  10. You’re definitely not over reacting and I would definitely contact someone at the school.

    I had a similar situation with my son when he was 8. He was on the student council for his school. When they had a meeting they always sent home information on it a week before hand. Except once.

    I went to pick him up and he wasn’t anywhere to be found. I had the office personel helping me look. I called my ex husband to see if he picked him up. Called my husband, my mother in law, my sister in law. No one had seen him.

    I had people checking the neighborhood, while I went classroom to classroom looking for him.

    I finally found him in one of the bungalows (trailers) towards the far end of the campus. I walked in and there he is with 2 teachers and 9 other kids. I was so mad and scared that I couldn’t even give someone a piece of my mind that day.

    Don’t blame Jeffery to much. I’d also be talking to the school about why he was able to walk around and play for so long without someone asking him who he was and if he was supposed to be there.

  11. Wow. Scary. But it happens, and yay for a good momma who taught her son his phone number. A lot of kids in our neighborhood don’t know theirs. So pat yourself on the back there.

    And yay for moms. You would have done the same, right? It’s this very reason that you should tell your kids that when they are lost, and there isn’t a policeman to be found (and seriously, how many cops just hang out on a street corner doin’ nothin’?), you should find a mom. Not a dad, not a store worker, a MOM. Mom’s rock.

    Take that tranquilizer. And get a happy book with no scariness.

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