This is a blog entry I don’t really want to write, but I’m hoping that writing about it – and mentally reliving it – will help me get over it. I mean, I should. Everything turned out fine, it’s just thinking about the five minutes of fear, panic and the unknown that are still gripped tightly around my heart whenever I think about it.
On Friday, while the boys were at school, Kayliana and I had a lovely playdate at Rebecca’s house. With little to no traffic, our houses from door-to-door are about 30 minutes apart. Kayli and I left her house shortly after 3pm in order to meet up with the boys around 4pm when their school bus arrives. Nearly an hour – plenty of time – especially considering that we can bypass most of the traffic in the carpool lane. Traffic. Was. Horrible. At 3:50 I wasn’t even off the freeway yet. I usually leave my house at 3:50 to walk the 3 minutes to the bus stop. I tried to not panic, I really did (try to not to).
Just on Wednesday, I’d let the boys walk home alone for the first time ever. On Wednesdays, the boys have early dismissal and I have to wake Kayli from her nap for the afternoon bus stop. So, I’d prepped the boys that we’d just let them handle it and see how it goes. Walking home from the bus solo?! You’dve thought that I told them we were heading to Disneyland this was so exciting.
Well, of course, on Wednesday, a good five minutes before they would’ve started walking up the hill towards home, I started pacing outside. I sorta pretended to do yardwork, but basically, every 30 seconds, I’d decide to wander out to the sidewalk, and then across the street to, you know, just look down the hill. Just checking things out down the street. Just seeing what’s a happenin’. The funniest part is that I needn’t have bothered to WATCH for them. I could hear them coming – talking and laughing – well before I could see them. (Apparently, they were discussing with the neighbor boy Roman, what they would do if suddenly a bad guy appeared and tried to ‘steal’ them. They’d scream and yell and kick him and punch him – in the privates even! – and find a house with a swimming pool in the front yard – these don’t exist as far as I know – and push him off the diving board. Yes, hilarious!)
So, they’d made it home safely from the bus stop. I’d even had them practice what they’d do if – for some reason – I wasn’t home. They’d practiced opening the lockbox thingy where our extra key is and letting themselves in. Considering that we had JUST gone through a dress rehearsal of all this, one would think I wouldn’t be that stressed on Friday afternoon upon realizing that I wasn’t going to make it. The thing that freaked me out the most was: how would they handle it?! I certainly didn’t know that I wasn’t going to be there in time, so I hadn’t prepared them for that. So imaging them looking around for me, confused that I wasn’t at the bus stop, wondering where I was, etc. was sorta breaking my heart. I just didn’t want THEM to be scared – especially once they walked all the way home and – for the first time ever in their lives – arrived to an empty house.
Let’s just say, the second I got off the freeway and through traffic, I SPED home. Up, up, up the twisty windy hugenormous hill to our house. A quick glance down the street confirmed that – as far as I could tell – no one was at the bus stop anymore – I’d missed its arrival by nearly 15 minutes. I turned up the street and saw a mom – who I haven’t met yet – walking with her two toddler/preschool boys. I’m sure she glared at me as I sped past and floored it over the speed bumps. I pounded the garage door opener until the door SO SLOWLY – it seemed – began to open. Oh and did I mention, that for the last 20 minutes of our bumper-to-bumper, stop and go drive, Kayli’d been yelling her head off, totally sick of being in the car? Right. I threw on the parking break, ran up the stairs and flung the door open, calling to the boys, trying to hide the panic in my voice. I’d pictured them calmly walking to the door all, “Uh, hi, mom.” Like no big deal and why the heck was I freaking out.
But they weren’t home.
This was the one thing that I’d REALLY tried to not let play through in my head. I kept telling myself, we’ve practiced this, they’ll just let themselves in, be a little confused that I’m not there, and most likely go a little crazy with the freedom and find my hidden chocolate stash and eat it all in the few minutes they’re home without me (that’s what I would’ve done as a kid!)…I tried to not think about how I’d react if they weren’t home.
Well, they weren’t. That’s when I finally just let go and gave in – a wee bit – to the real panic. The thing is, I KNEW they were fine. I figured that another neighbor had seen that I wasn’t at the bus stop and had offered to just have them over. The problem was, I still don’t have any phone numbers, I didn’t know where they were, and I felt like the worst mom in the world. Maybe people are reading this thinking that I overreacted. But those few minutes of having NO idea where my young kids are just kinda pushed me over the edge.
So, I’m crying, I jump back in the car and race down the hill. I see the mom again, still out walking her little kiddos (like a GOOD mom who WALKS WITH her children). I put down my window and yell, “The school bus kids already went by right?!” I knew the answer. It was 15 minutes passed the time the bus usually arrives. I was just hoping. She’d seen me walking with the boys before; maybe she’d offer some info. She smiled and said, “Yeah, they all went by a while ago.”
I drove down the hill and turned down the street towards the bus stop thinking that maybe they were waiting for me there (around the corner where I couldn’t see them). Nope.
I drove back up the street and parked in front of Roman’s house. Now sobbing. By this point, the mom with her two kiddos happened to be right in front of Roman’s house. I said, “Hi, sorry, I’m Jenny. I’m kinda freaking out [duh] ‘cuz there was traffic and I wasn’t at the bus stop and my boys don’t know where I am and I don’t know where they are and I’m hoping they’re here….” By this point, Kayli is also screaming her head off.
“OK, OK,” the mom said kindly and calmly, “We’ll find them.” One of her boys asked me what they looked like. Um, wow. What little 3 or 4 year old knows to ask that in this scenario?! I think I said, “They’re 6 and 9” as I kinda ran passed them towards the door. She and her boys went over to the open window of our minivan to try to visit with Kayli and calm her down – since, ya know – mommy’s lost it!
I should’ve known that they were at Roman’s, and again, just like knowing that they were OK, deep down, I figured – I hoped – they were. But it was the same thing with the house. I KNEW they’d be there and then the fact that they weren’t started the spiral of panic. So, I was already at the: Oh. My. God. What will I do if they’re not here?!! Where will they be? How will I find them? place. I really do – typically – pride myself on remaining cool in an emergency situation, but there’s something about that whole Mama Bear not knowing where your cubs are thing, that just made me kinda – OK, TOTALLY – lose it.
I waited for the longest minute (it was probably like 20 seconds) of my life until someone came to the door to answer my urgent knock…it was Roman’s mom, her 3 year old, her 5 year old, Roman AND Matthew and Zach. I’m sure it was somewhat comical, really. They fling open the door and I’m already crying and they’re kind of all staring at me like, “Uhhhhh, what happened to you?!” As if I’m just picking them up from a regularly scheduled playdate. But the boys, while they’ve played with Roman, haven’t played AT his house. I’m friendly with his mom at the bus stop, but I can’t even remember her name and I don’t have her phone number, so it’s not like we’ve done this a million times.
Her eyes started to water as soon as she saw me, and she said, “Oh no! Please don’t cry. It’s OK. They’re OK. Roman walked them home and they couldn’t get your front door open, so they came here and told me that their mom wasn’t home. So, we were just going to have snack.” I kinda nod and blubber and mutter some stuff about traffic and I just didn’t know where they were and I was sorry and, well, traffic was just so bad. (Kinda like I was crying BECAUSE of the traffic).
“They can always come here. I’m always home.” I thank her and tell her, the same and that well, gosh, I really should get her phone number! I follow the boys to the car who – really were just bummed not to get to play longer at Roman’s – but DO make sure to tell me that “that was scary” that they didn’t know where I was.
As the boys get in the car, I sorta-properly introduce myself (through my tear-drenched, cry-gasping breaths) to the mom who’s been hanging out with Kayli this whole time. We chat briefly – though I’m not entirely sure what we talk about. I do know that I said something like, “Well, this is an awesome first impression that you’re getting of me. But at least I’ll just get more awesome from here. I’m actually really fun…” Yeah, or something like that. I think the last thing I said was, “I’m going to go have a glass of wine.” (Which, really, is how I sign off from most conversations, right?)
Anyway, the boys explained to me more of what happened and how they just COULDN”T get the key to open the front door. I told them that, it’s fine what they did, going to Roman’s house. But if – for whatever reason – something like that scenario happened again – I’d want them to get the mom’s help and write me a note to stick on the door telling me, you know, where I can find them. Just so, you know, I don’t totally panic, when they aren’t in the safety of our home like I think they’re going to be.
Would you have panicked? Did I totally overreact? Probably yes and definitely yes.