I could tell immediately, from Ms. X’s voice.
“I’m calling about Sophie’s day,” she said. Rut ro.
Bad enough that Sophie threw sand on a first grader at recess and called him a “Poo Poo Head”. But what happened after school was much, much worse.
The end of the day was crazy, as it always is, Ms. X explained, and several parents stopped her to talk. Usually, Sophie is very good, Ms. X said, and waits patiently til she’s picked up.
Today, apparently, Sophie got impatient. She left the classroom, walked several doors down and across a courtyard, turned left, passed the office and made it out of the school and all the way to the crosswalk before someone noticed.
Bless Freddie, one of the school custodians, a wonderfully kind man who doubles as crossing guard at the end of the day. And thank goodness Sophie decided to cross properly. Freddie nabbed her and made a special delivery back to the now-beyond-panicked Ms. X.
I was stunned. The internal dialogue began.
So, she made it all the way (a substantial way, a path filled no doubt — at that time of day — with literally dozens of people, most of whom know Sophie, at least by sight) to the crosswalk before someone noticed she was alone?
Let’s say it again, for good measure.
SOPHIE MADE IT ALL THE WAY TO THE CROSSWALK BEFORE SOMEONE NOTICED SHE WAS ALONE.
I took a deep breath. Wait. Someone DID notice. She DIDN’T get to the street — well, she didn’t get ONTO the street. She’s OK. That’s what matters.
And then: I’m not just a Bad Mom, I’m a Horrible Parent. Horrible. What kind of parent doesn’t pick her kid up after school?!
A working parent, of course.
Turns out, the sitter (whom we absolutely, positively adore) was, maybe, three minutes late. That’s nothing in the scheme of things. Or it’s everything. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t Ms. X’s fault. It wasn’t my fault (I’ll say in a more lucid moment). It wasn’t even Sophie’s fault. Well, it was. But what can you do? She’s — well, she’s Sophie.
And regardless of everything else, she’s 5. It happens. Ms. X says it happens. Not just with Sophie. I told Deborah, who immediately had her own story to tell, about the time Anna headed home alone after school. She was 6.
I felt better — for a minute. Then I went out and bought Freddie a big box of fancy cookies. Tomorrow morning, Sophie and I will write a heartfelt apology to the little boy she called Poo Poo Head, and a heartfelt thanks to the man who might have saved her life.