Monday, June 02, 2008

Panic! at the playground

My cell vibrated this afternoon and I actually noticed the bzzz coming from my purse, which was lucky because the caller was from The Kid's daycare and the message was, "The Kid wasn't on the bus after school. We're looking for him."

This is not a pleasant conversation to have with your child's daycare provider. Nor is the conversation I had with his school's office attendant. I was hoping I would call and be reassured by a calm grandmotherly voice that The Kid had simply missed the bus and was waiting for me safe and sound in the main office. Instead, the phone was answered by an abrupt woman who interrupted me part way through my introduction and barked, "I know. His daycare already called. I'm heading out to look for him. I'll call you back."

And so I waited, dutifully not panicking.

He was found an hour after he should have left the schoolyard to board a bus, happily playing on the playground equipment with a fellow AWOL classmate. (A third classmate went to the office and tipped the secretary off to the kids' location. I predict this third classmate has one, maybe two years of decent social standing left in him before he's identified as a rat and forced to make friends with the recess lady in order to keep his shoes from dangling from the telephone wires.)

After I picked up The Kid from an obviously annoyed and relieved office attendant, after I hugged him and poked him to make sure he really and truly hadn't permanently disappeared, after a stern discussion about not dawdling on the way to the bus, after he was certain I wasn't going to deliver a final blow of cruel and unusual punishment, the kid confessed to being a little freaked out himself. "That was kind of scary," he said. "We thought we were going to have to sleep at the school and that when we woke up, we were going to starve to death. And then, after Office Attendant found us, it was scarier because I thought you were going to be really mad at me."

Because Mom in a bad mood is a far worse fate than starvation.

And while I certainly was more than a little irritated, the after-effects of worry left me simply happy to see him. Not so happy that he didn't get a repeat lecture during dinner, but happy enough that not a word was said about the sticky handprint he left on the kitchen wall. In fact, he was allowed to leave multiple unintentional smudges on the yellow paint. Because you know what, Kid? Tonight Mommy's got a soft spot, and you can put your grubby little hands anywhere you like, just so long as those grubby little hands always come home.

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