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That Time My Son Went Missing at School

Photograph by Twenty20

Every mother's worst fear just came true for me. On the first day of first grade, the school lost my kid.

I thought we had this whole thing down, what with having come away from kindergraten pretty much unscathed. I thought all the bumps and scary parts were a thing of the past. I thought first grade would be a breeze.

Yeah, right.

It doesn't feel like a breeze. In fact, it feels just like kindergarten, only with an older kid. The school thinks he is wiser and should know everything there is to know about protocols and procedures. But we recently learned the hard (and frightening) way he does not.

Let's just walk through that fateful day, shall we?

That morning, I walked my eldest son to the front door and dropped him off. There was a new dismissal procedure this year, but neither of us was worried. We had our plan all figured out.

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Six and a half hours later, I go to pick up my son with all of the other parents. It's mass chaos. The new system was a bad idea. We all knew this, but now we were seeing it in practice. Anyway, there I am standing patiently, waiting for my boy to come out. Kids trickle past. Someone says the first-graders are all the way at the back of the school. They say it will take a little longer. And yet all of my friends with first-graders are already headed home with their kids.

The principal looked at my son with annoyance and told me he made an announcement. I look at him like he'd lost his mind.

Where was my kid? What the heck was going on? My unbelievably responsible son would not leave me hanging like this.

Apparently, they'd lost my kid on the first day of school.

You can image the curses running through my head as I frantically run down to the old dismissal point. No one was there. Not a soul. Even though it's the playground area. I'm not a mom who panics. I don't hover over my kids. But when they don't show up to where they are supposed to be, my brain goes insane. I started running through every scenario, both good and terrifying.

Finally, the principal asked whom I was waiting for, and he paged my son over the loud speaker. Some minutes later, my son appeared.

I am all for teaching my son responsibility and how to look after himself, but we, as a society, need to remember that these are just kids.

He told me he never heard an announcement telling him he was dismissed. He was the only "walker" in his class. Everyone else took the bus or was picked up in the car line—all of which have separate dismissal announcements. Where was his teacher during the 30 minutes my child was missing? She was in the classroom with him, apparently never looking at the clock and noticing that he should be gone. The principal looked at my son with annoyance and told me he made an announcement. I look at him like he'd lost his mind.

My son is in the first grade!

I don't care how many announcements anyone at that school makes. On the first day—or even the last day—of school, dismissal is a symphony of chaos. Kids pack up for the day, slam lockers and finally have a chance to get out the wiggles they've been forced to suppress (don't even get me started on that). It is the teacher's responsibility to make sure her class actually leaves the building.

I am all for teaching my son responsibility and how to look after himself, but we, as a society, need to remember that these are just kids. They need someone, whether it is a parent, teacher or principal, looking out for them and helping them along the way.

Don't blame my child.

Help him figure out new systems and better ways to do things.

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As a parent, that's my responsibility, too. Which is why I told him on the walk home, if the clock says 4, he'd better be walking out the door. Whether he heard an announcement or not.

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