Monday, August 24, 2009

Nicholas Starts School

August 24, 2009

In the spirit of yesterday's post, I thought I'd share a little story of Nicholas' kindergarten experience.

Nicholas approached the beginning of his school career with a little less enthusiasm than his sister, but still he was excited about the prospect of a new adventure. He was an explorer--inquisitive and fascinated by his surroundings. He was also an escape artist, as it turns out.

My son had no particular worries or fears about starting school, and he marched through the doors on the first day, delighted at all the bright and shiny toys displayed throughout Mrs. Stead's classroom. At the end of the first day, when I picked him up, he said he had had a good time, but couldn't really give me much in the way of details--just a general favorable impression.

At the end of the second day it was much the same. He had a good day, most of the kids were pretty nice, but no real specifics on how he spent his day. He lived it, he experienced it, and then it was over. He didn't need to dwell on the details or savor them later on in his day--he lived in the moment. He was frustrated by my incessant quest for the details. I actually gave him 'homework' on the evening of his second day--find out the name of at least one kid that he played with during the day. Without my prompting, he wouldn't think to ask the kid sharing his Legos or playing ball with him at recess what his name was so that he might more easily seek him out to play again the next day. Like I said, he relished the moment, and wasn't particularly interested in making future plans. The future just happened for Nicholas.

He settled in and seemed satisfied by the end of the first week. By the first day of the following week, it was old hat, or so it seemed. Shortly after lunch on that second Monday of Nicholas' kindergarten year, I got a nearly hysterical call from his babysitter in my classroom. The first words out of her mouth were, "First of all, everything's okay now, and we've found him, but I can't take it anymore today. Nicholas disappeared on me today--twice. You have to come get him NOW." Through the tears and frustration, I got the story that had nearly pushed his babysitter over the edge...

I was lucky to have a daycare provider who would pick up Nicholas after kindergarten got out, since I was still in class for another couple of hours after his class dismissed. Tami had been our babysitter since the kids were infants--she was like an extra aunt to them. Imagine her surprise when she got to the school to pick up Nicholas, just like she had every day the week before, only to find him missing. She went to the kindergarten yard and asked the teacher on duty where he was. She looked around the playground and, not finding him, assumed that he must still be inside his classroom. She pointed Tami toward Nicholas' classroom. His teacher, not knowing that she'd already checked the yard, told Tami that he wasn't inside, he must be out on the playground.

It took a few minutes for both teachers and Tami to realize that Nicholas had gone missing. They went into a frantic search, looking in all the nooks and crannies of the classroom, thinking he might be hiding. They searched the bathrooms, the front office, the library. They called over the loudspeaker for Nicholas to report to the front office, all to no avail. For about 20 minutes, there was a manhunt on for my missing boy, during which time, Tami and the teachers were frantic with fear. Who wants to call a parent and tell them their child's been lost?

Luckily, about that time, Brianna appeared at the front office, with Nicholas in tow. Without having any idea the trouble he would be causing, he had seen a line of kids heading out of the kindergarten gate at the end of his day. He didn't know what the line was for; he didn't know where they were going. He, living in the moment, just thought it would be interesting to follow them out the gate and see where they were going. Where they were going, it turned out, was Campus Club. When they arrived at the Campus Club building, Nicholas realized he didn't belong there, so he just turned around and left. It occurred to him that his sister was in one of the classrooms, so he just decided to peek in each window up and down the hallways until he found her.

One of the teachers noticed a little one peering in her window, and she stepped outside to ask him what he was looking for. It happened to be a teacher who knew Bree, so when he said he was looking for his sissy, the teacher took him to her class. Bree, knowing that Tami was supposed to be picking him up after school, asked her teacher to be excused to take him up to the front office.

When they arrived, Tami and both of the kindergarten teachers were there, trying to figure out if it was time to notify me that they had lost my son. The immediate sense of relief gave way to frustration and anger, and all three of the women let Nicholas know in no uncertain terms all the fear and worry he had caused. Frankly, they scared him--not that I blame them. It never occurred to him that everyone was looking for him; he had no concept of time or any idea that his wandering adventure was such a cause for alarm. By the time he was strapped into the car seat and on the way back to Tami's, he was indignant and crying, mad that everyone was yelling and upset with him.

In the meantime, I was blissfully unaware of Nicholas' misadventures. Tami and Nicholas got back to her daycare, and she sent him into the nap room. She was emotionally exhausted, but she needed to relieve her aide, who had been holding down the fort and managing the other daycare kids while she scoured the school looking for him. Still angry at all of the unexpected ire he'd encountered at school, Nicholas decided he'd had enough of Tami's, and he snuck out the back door. He was ready to call it a day and be home, so he headed on down the road. Imagine Tami's horror when she discovered that Nicholas was on the lam for the second time that day.

She called the nearby elementary school to see if he might have wandered over there to play on the playground. No sign of a stray kid. She searched her yard and every part of her house. After yet another twenty minutes or so of searching, the school called her and said that one of their aides had been driving home and had encountered a little boy, trudging down the road (toward a busy street where cross traffic does not stop!)--hot, tired, but looking like a man with a mission. (Amazingly, the kid had a great sense of direction for a five year old. Though he had never made the trek on foot, he was three blocks away from Tami's, on the right track towards home.) The aide thought he might belong to the school she worked at, and since Tami had recently called looking for a missing boy, the secretary figured he was my little runaway and called Tami to come and get him.

The aide stayed with Nicholas, and offered him some water while they waited. Interestingly, she offered him a ride home, but he knew he wasn't supposed to ride with strangers, so he declined. (He didn't want to ride with strangers, but hiking two miles home on his own he was okay with--little minds are funny things!) Tami picked him up, but was so beside herself that she didn't say much to him. As soon as she got back home she picked up the phone and told me I needed to come get him--NOW. Her heart couldn't take it if he managed to slip away one more time.

Needless to say, my escape artist and I had a real heart-to-heart that night--something along the lines of how to avoid giving your loved ones nervous breakdowns. Seven years later, by the way, we're still working out the finer points of that lesson.


  1. I think you might be working in that lesson right up until he moves out for college :)

  2. You have another bright one here!! I am impressed that he was able to track his way back to the school all by himself. My boys would have panicked.