Today started out much like any other – getting Baxter ready and out the door for school, preparing Lyle for his preschool drop-off, and Matt ducking into the office for a 7:30am conference call. I threw on my swimsuit under my clothes so that I could go for a swim at the gym after I dropped Lyle off.
And then it all fell to pieces.
Specifically, Lyle fell to pieces. On the floor, crying, “I don’t want to go to school! I’m not going to school!” Did I say crying? I meant sobbing. Wailing. Lyle loves school and always cheers when he hears that it’s a school day, so I was shocked, to say the least. I asked what he was upset about and he cried, “Singing the Good-bye Song!”
Of course. Today was the last day of regular classes, with nothing more than an ice cream party and little music performance next Tuesday. He doesn’t want school to end. He’s nervous about a new class and new teachers next year. Fear of the unknown.
And he was mad. Mad that I wasn’t going to let him simply avoid something that made him very, very sad. I held him for a long time and we talked about how hard it is to say good-bye to people but that it’s important to do so before moving on. I asked him to draw me a picture of his feelings and he carefully filled a page with teardrops in many different colors. On the back, I started a list with him of great things we will be able to go together this summer when he’s on school vacation. This combination of things seemed to help, and after about half an hour he finally agreed to go to school with me for just one minute and then we’d leave. (I told him that we needed to go tell the teachers that we couldn’t stay today, and upped the ante by saying this would be required if he was going to attend next week’s party.) I was fairly certain that once he spent his negotiated 60 seconds in preschool, he’d want to stay longer, but it was clear that I would be staying, too. Suddenly I wished I wasn’t wearing that Speedo, but off we went.
When we arrived at his school, the class was walking across the street to the playground. Lots of small voices called out, “Look! It’s Lyle! He’s here!” and this made him smile broadly. I was still shaken from the morning’s emotional onslaught but happy to be pushing him and his friends on the swings.
Within minutes, the other adults went into sudden emergency mode. A child had tripped, hitting his head very hard on the climbing structure, just above his eye. He was in bad, bad shape. The staff called 911 immediately and one teacher and a parent assistant ran the child indoors. I did not see the hurt child from where I was at the swings, but another parent’s description was beyond gruesome. We watched some firefighters and then an ambulance attend to the child, wait a few minutes for his mother to arrive, and leave for the hospital. I then spent the next two hours volunteering with the class – in part because I knew Lyle needed my support and in part because one of the teachers had gone with the child and his mother in the ambulance and I didn’t think this was a good day to leave the group short-staffed. I worked with the kids on answering their questions and quelling some of their fears about their classmate. The hurt child’s twin brother was still in the group, too, and was, understandably, very scared and confused.
This morning felt like an endless three hours of holding myself together. I caught myself thinking, as we drove away from the school, that this is the stuff no one prepares you for when you become a parent. No one tells you that one minute your day is going along just like any other and the next you are talking your sad child down from the tree of emotional avoidance and then helping to hold a group of kids together after an emergency, very worried about someone else’s little boy and looking with wonder at your own child, unharmed.
I’m told that the child will be okay. It sounded like he was getting a lot of stitches, but I didn’t hear of any damage to his eye, thank goodness.
And now I just want a nap. Has anyone seen my nap?