A child IS your heart outside your body.

8 Oct

I’m at work, and for the first time ever, I’m not watching my phone like a hawk. (During school days I keep an eye out, worried of course that someone will be sick or maimed or, well, fall off a chair like my children are habitually doing.) I’m not even thinking about my phone, tucked away in my bag while I work.

About 1.5 hours into my day, I think gee, I should take a peek, just to be safe. You never know.

Missed call an hour previous. The school. (Of course, the school being the smartest place I know, shows up as a private number, meaning I then need to scramble to find the number.)

I log in to my land line voicemail and hear a message which chills me. “Vivian doesn’t appear to be here today-can you call and confirm if she’s out sick or late?”

I’ve never felt such a sick, greasy fear before, but it shot straight down my spine, and settled somewhere near my liver while I sprinted off the floor to call.

The lady answering asks, not unkindly, “Is she sick? We noticed she isn’t in today.”

I sent her. She walks to school. She went. I walked the same way, back and forth since Rosalyn made me miss the bus, and I didn’t see her. She must be there.

A hem. A haw. She puts me on hold while silently, I pace and I slowly burn with a million thoughts. The rational ones are buried in the back, drowned out by self doubt (why did I let her walk? Is it worth it, letting her have this freedom at 8, these 4 blocks, barely even a km to school?) by anger (it’s not like her to not go straight to school! If she’s somewhere else I’ll lose it I swear to crap…) and by cold fear (oh sweet hell, is she somewhere cold? Did she get hit by a car and they didn’t stop? Is she lying behind a house, her leg broken? Did someone snatch her?)

Is she ok? Please, please, let her be ok.

The woman comes back. “All the kids are in the gym. Let me go look and call you right back.”

Let. Me. Go. Look?

I can’t breathe waiting for the call. I’m on fire, my nerves tense and strung, and all I can think is the possibility that my sweet girl in hurt somewhere, or scared, or all those horrible things you don’t speak of, not out loud. Did I tell her I loved her as she left? Did I hug her enough, distracted as I was by the morning, and getting her sister dressed, getting her sister to eat breakfast faster than she does? I pace and gnaw on my fingers and stay as tightly wound as I possibly can.

She calls back. “So sorry. Teacher marked the wrong kid absent. She’s here. She’s fine. I’m so sorry.”

I barely choke out my understanding before I burst into hysterical tears, heaving the words “holy fucking shit” from my lips. I catch my breath and run to the bathroom so I can let it go, the fear, the panic. The fucking cold fear.

This was maybe 15 minutes of my life. And it was terrible, horrible. How parents lose their kids, and carry on, survive-I cannot imagine. A few minutes of not knowing ate me up inside for the day, and all I could think was that some people life with that pain, daily, forever. Their kids never come home. Their kids, are just gone.

And I just couldn’t imagine it, hope I never, ever have to worry.


What I hate the most is that I automatically questioned my judgement in letting her walk, something which, honestly, is likely safer than if she got on a school bus in the morning or drove. It’s 4 blocks, through a residential area full with her peers and other families. It’s absolutely safe, unless you really worry about some random person smoking weed.

But I doubted myself. Instead of assuming, rightly, that everything was fine, and someone just made a mistake, I doubted me, just like all the media and the hyperbole and the paranoid suburban housewives want me to. I fell prey to believing in the boogeyman, even if just for a minute.

But there wasn’t a boogeyman. Just a miscounting teacher, and a secretary jumping the gun. A little girl who seemed oddly surprised at the extra tight hugs she got the other night. And a mother who should trust herself more often.

(Is it just my kid’s school that just does not have it together? Is your neighborhood safe, or would you doubt yourself first too?)

15 Responses to “A child IS your heart outside your body.”

  1. Jennifer October 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    Bloody hell, I would have freaked too.

    Glen let both my girls walk to their friends house tonight. Even though its about a 15 minute walk (3 at your speed), and its up and around the corner, far away from seeing it from anywhere in the house, I still was a little….uneasy when he told me about it after working all day.

    Even though its safe. They know where their friends house was. They were home and happy when I got home, I still wasn’t comfortable with the idea, and kind of struggled with it.

    I think its normal, these are our babies, we protect them. The up side is that parents that hover, the helo moms are creating major issues with their kids long term. They develop OCD and self confidence problems. Ours will be awesome, independent kids!’

    And PS, I was a latch key kid at 6, in the heart of toronto welfare central (willowdale, in a 22 storey highrise) and often put myself to bed. I survived. Unkidnapped even.

    • thordora October 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

      Yeah, I know….I shouldn’t really worry-she’s 8, and mature like your oldest, but still. It’s what we do, right? :p

  2. Marcy October 8, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    Oh yikes. Really super glad she was fine.

    • thordora October 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      When I told her I was worried after what happened, she was just like, oh, really? Huh. :p

      • Marcy October 10, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

        As I’d expect — nothing happened to *her*, so of course your worry is mystifying. Reminds me of the time I went playing with the neighborhood kids without telling the parents…

  3. Linda October 8, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Not acceptable, the school should review their notification policy. Unacceptable to alarm a parent and worse the thinly veiled judgement.
    My kids walked the staggering two blocks from school to home in falling snow. They were 10 and 12, geeze! Dare Officer gave them a ride home and called me at work.
    Sexist also, does the school call the fathers?

    • thordora October 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

      I’ve left myself as the main contact since I don’t always trust that he’ll be accessible….but I do need to speak with them about reviewing the verification process before calling.

      I know people who GASP! at the thought of 10 year olds walking. It’s ridiculous.

  4. sweetsalty kate October 9, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    Gasp….. ! Good lord. Breathe. xo

  5. Meredith October 9, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    I am sure, 100% positive that anyone would first question themselves. Anyone with a child would do it. If they say they wouldn’t, they’d be lying. No matter what happens, in whatever situation, we all blame ourselves, or try and find reason or who to pin guilt to or how it could have happened. I don’t care how solid your evidence or reasoning are, you’ll find some doubt in there somewhere.

    I have never lost the big kid, but the small one disappeared in a festival for about 4 minutes and I am not still not sure I took a breath during that time. Of course, he had just followed the lady in the black pants, who he thought was me and wasn’t frightened at all. It still makes me heart stop for a moment when I think about it.

    I’m sorry that happened. I would be sending a pointed note to the school letting them know how unacceptable this is.

    • thordora October 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

      I haven’t lost either one yet…surprisingly enough. 😛

  6. allyo October 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    I think it happens often. It happened to us last year and the only reason I didn’t freak is because a friend had told me about it happening to a friend of theirs.

    Think about how many kids are in one school, and if the office had to go double check that every kid marked absent was absent? I think I’d rather have the 15 minutes of hell than to have a huge delay if something – God forbid – had gone wrong and my child was missing.

    We live half a mile to school and when he’s old enough, my son will walk by himself. No matter how nervous I get inside, I know that this is all hype and that there’s nothing wrong with a kid walking himself to school.

    • thordora October 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      Very true….the only thing that bugs me is that when I asked her, she said no one in her class was absent that day,,,so I just don’t get how they buggered it up. :p

      • allyo October 11, 2011 at 7:54 am #

        Good lord, that’s annoying for sure.

  7. maggie may October 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    My God you poor thing, I would have flipped too. I’m so so cuglad she’s OK.
    It’s those times when ‘the curtain lifts’ we get terrible glimpses into what life
    could be without our children.

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