We started letting our kindergartener, M, ride the bus to the Boys and Girls Club with her buddies this winter. At first, I was leaning against doing it. She’s only five so virtually every kid on the bus and at the Club is older and bigger than her. Wasn’t this kind of like throwing her in the deep end and hoping she could swim?
After a few days of wavering, I found myself counting the number of Mercedes in her gymnastic school’s parking lot and decided that, on balance, the Boys and Girls Club was worth a try if for no other reason than I didn’t want her growing up thinking people with golf ball sized wedding diamonds were the norm.
So far, it had been going well but when I hadn’t heard from her by 4:30p on Valentine’s day I started to get worried. Her school gets out at 3:30p and the Club is about 1.5 miles away. Feeling both panicked and ridiculous, I called them. “Hi, this is M’s mom. Did she arrive okay?”
“She hasn’t signed in, but maybe she was so excited about our Valentine’s party that she forgot. I’ll go look.” Oh God. Some fifth grader has locked her in a janitor’s closet.
The Club director got on the line. “The bus from M’s school is here, but M isn’t.”
“What?!” The bus ride was so traumatic that she curled up in the fetal position under her seat. The bus driver didn’t see her because she’s so small and now the bus is back at district transportation headquarters for the night.
“Why don’t you call the school and we’ll check again.”
I called M’s school. “Are you sure she was supposed to ride the bus today?”
“I’m sure…” That a hulking 11 year old has stuffed her in his backpack and KIDNAPPED HER.
Lots of walkie-talkie noises erupted in the background and in a few moments M’s principal was on the phone. “No one’s leaving until we find her. We’ll call you as soon as we know anything.”
I reminded myself that freaking out would be unhelpful. Even though my baby might have found herself smack in the middle of a “Lord of the Flies” situation AND BEEN CAST AS PIGGY.
I called my husband. I called my friends. I was about to call her regular playdate buddies when, finally, at 4:50p my cell rang. “Well, we know where M is,” said her principal, now sounding amused. “So many of our kids go the Boys and Girls Club now that there are two buses. M is on the second bus. When it’s raining they have to wait for the bus in a classroom. We had a Valentine’s celebration today and some of the kids made a “blizzard” of hearts and confetti. The bus couldn’t leave until they’d cleaned up the classroom so it didn’t leave here until five minutes ago.”
“Wait. So… you’re telling my kid isn’t at the Club because she helped destroy a classroom.”
“OH, THANK GOD!” I made an attempt to sound like a responsible parent who was *not* relieved that her child was involved in a mass vandalism incident. “I’ll definitely talk to her about that. Thanks for all your help.”
When I talked to M, it became apparent that she was, in fact, a top lieutenant in the St. Valentine’s Day classroom massacre. Several second and third graders were her underlings.
I feel a lot better about letting her ride the bus to the Boys and Girls Club now.