The second grader, Miss S, is hiding behind the big garbage can, crying. One dad is trying to put his screaming son onto the buggy to go to school. Three others are already in there waiting to go. Another dad arrives, apologizing for being late, and I’m waving at him to just please put his two kids in the buggy without my help. Younger Son is standing by with his backpack, ready to go to school, surveying the chaos.
I am on the phone with Miss S’s mother, and we are both trying to devise a way to “talk her off the ledge,” as mom put it. Miss S left her backpack in the car and it was driven to work, 40 minutes away. When we discovered this she seemed fine, and I told her I’d give her some lunch money so she would be able to buy one.
That was the moment when it all went wrong. She went absolutely ballistic and wouldn’t let me help her at all. I called mom to ask if the backpack happened to be left at home, in which case I could swing by and grab it. Nope – in the car. She finally said (as she could hear me trying to console Miss S, and her wailing in the background), “Let me talk to her.”
Ah, brilliant – mom to the rescue!! I gladly handed Miss S the phone, briefly said thanks and goodbye to the dads, and started pushing the buggy down the street. At this point we were in danger of being late to school. Miss S followed me reluctantly, and I could hear her yelling, “I can’t hear you!!! I tried moving it!!!” into the phone. I – gently…carefully… – moved the phone a little lower on her ear and finally mother and child were reunited.
They talked halfway to school and Miss S gave me the phone back. Mom said she’d bring the backpack after she finished teaching her first class (ah, the life of a mother). Miss S straggled slowly behind us, stopping to hide and cry every ten or fifteen feet.
I tried to figure out why she was so upset. “I just want my backpack!” she shrieked. I said, “Are you afraid people are going to say something mean to you because you don’t have it?” NO! “If you’re worried about your homework I’ll tell Miss Johnson what happened.” NO! “I know you’re upset but it’s OK, you’re not going to be in trouble.” GET AWAY FROM ME!!!
Hmm. As there was nothing I could do and Younger was going to be very late, I just kept walking (and turning around to make sure Miss S didn’t at some point run screaming down the road). When we got to the school she didn’t want to cross the street and started crying all over again. I was already halfway into the street with the giant buggy, so I had to – again, gently – nudge her closer to me as she swiped my arm away.
I told her I’d talk to her teacher and she stormed to the line that was already forming because the bell rang three minutes ago. One of the wonderful aides at the school saw her crying and went over to her. I heard her say, “You forgot your backpack?” and I whispered to her, “Mom’s bringing it at 11:00.” She took it from there.
Thank GOD for that woman. I didn’t know if I’d even be able to get Miss S into the building, and was considering just taking her home with me.
Later on Mom called me to let me know she’d dropped off the backpack and to deconstruct what had happened. She explained that Miss S hates the school food, has never bought lunch, isn’t quite sure how, and hates to stand in the line. Ah-haaaaaaa…..
It just goes to show how little you can know about a person no matter how much time you’ve spent with them. I’ve had Miss S in my care for FIVE YEARS – from the time she was two! But I had no idea she hated school lunch so much. If I’d known that I would’ve made her a lunch. Of course it was time to LEAVE when she discovered the backpack was missing, but I could’ve finessed it a little better and avoided the breakdown.
By the way. While Mom and I were on the phone, I heard a crack and a crash, and turned to see that her other daughter had fallen through the front of one of the toy ovens and was now trapped inside of it.
My big boys had moved all our outdoor toys into a giant pile so they could play wiffle ball. I was in the middle of putting them back in place when mom called. The oven was laying on its back and for some reason Miss D thought it would be fun to climb on it.
Mom could now hear the cracking plastic and me asking her other daughter, “Are you OK? Are you bleeding? Nope it looks alright, no cuts.”
She laughed and said, “I don’t know how you handle this constant chaos!” I said simply this: When you expect constant chaos, nothing phases you.