Yesterday I had the unsettling experience of arriving to pick up each of my children at their respective activities and discovering that each of them were distraught and sobbing. This is not a situation any parent enjoys encountering once on any given day, but twice was really too much.
I went to pick up Enthusio at day camp after dropping Mermaid off at play practice and running some errands. The core program at day camp ends at 4 pm, but you can pick them up any time up till 6:30, since it also functions as daycare. Mermaid's play practice starts at 4 pm, and over the past week, Enthusio has demonstrated that he is happy to hang out and play for a while after 4 pm snack time. Also, he's tired when I pick him up, and yesterday was particularly hot, so I assumed he'd prefer to go right home when I picked him up rather than have to go to the store with me. So I went to Rite Aid and Safeway and had a coffee before I got him. Thus, it was close to 5 by the time I went to pick him up.
I went out to the playground where the kids usually are when I pick him up, only to discover no one was out there. That was fine -- it was HOT and I didn't blame the kids for not wanting to be out there. I'd noticed some kids playing in a classroom as I'd passed through the school, so I assumed they were all doing inside activities. I stuck my head into a few different classrooms and he wasn't in any of them, so I headed for Enthusio's "Bunk". I could see as I was going down the hall that the light wasn't one in his classroom, but I figured I could at least go in there and grab his stuff so we wouldn't have to go back there once I found him. I opened the door to the dark classroom -- and found my son, running around and crying. His face had that really dirty, swollen look he gets when he's been crying a long time, and he ran over to me and hugged me. As we gathered up his things, he told me he didn't know where his group had gone or where he was supposed to be, and he'd been by himself crying in that classroom a long time.
Now, on the one hand -- the front desk and the camp office were right down the hall and all he'd have had to do was go out there and ask whomever was there to help him figure out where he was supposed to be. So we went down to the desk and I explained what had happened and in a very non-blaming kind of way explained to Enthusio in the girl at the front desk's presence that the adults at day camp are there to help him and he needs to ask for help if he's lost and no one wants him to sit in a classroom by himself crying if he doesn't know where to go. The girl at the desk agreed with me and told him it made her sad to know he'd been so upset. So now he knows what do to in that situation, and he calmed right down and was fine by the time we got in the car to go home.
On the other hand, it does bother me that no one noticed he was missing for however long (half an hour?). They make a big deal of the fact that you can't just drop off your kid or pick them up out front -- you have to walk them in and sign them in, then come in and sign them out at the end of the day. But when I go to pick him up, I just go out to the playground and get him, we get his things from his classrooms, and I sign him out -- usually without anyone taking any particular notice. I'm not worried about some stranger coming in and trying to take him, but it does strike me that the kids in the program are not especially well-accounted for after program hours, and that doesn't thrill me. I'm going back and forth about whether I want to talk to someone there about what happened yesterday or just keep reiterating to Enthusio that if he's ever unsure about where he's supposed to be or who is in charge at any given time, he needs to speak up and ask.
After Reasonable Man got home, I left Enthusio with him and went over to the Davis Art Center to pick up Mermaid. There was a short parents' meeting scheduled for after practice so I was planning to stay for that. When I arrived, the cast was working in a classroom with the door closed, but after I sat down to wait, the director emerged with Mermaid behind her, in tears. I immediately assumed it had to do with the time -- she gets pretty worked up when she doesn't get out of class right at the appointed time and that sort of thing -- but then she said she had a headache. Her director seemed very concerned, which was comforting after the whole day camp thing, and I gave Mermaid a Tylenol since she said her stomach wasn't bothering her yet (she threw up as soon as we got home). So that pretty much sucked. Mermaid often gets headaches when it's really hot, and I don't know if she had enough fluids during the day yesterday, so I'm really encouraging her to drink a lot today.
Both kids are fine today. Mermaid is still excited about doing her play and Enthusio was happy to go to day camp. But it made me feel bad. As I've mentioned before, I don't feel much in the way of guilt about putting my kids in the care of others. I know it's good for them to get out and be involved in activities with other kids. But this summer seems different, I guess because I've got them both so busy. I've never wanted to turn into one of those parents who over-schedules their kids in a zillion different things, and I've been careful to take each of their personalities into account when we picked their activities. An hour of swim practice a day, or that plus play practice a couple times a week, is plenty of activity for Mermaid -- she needs lots of down-time -- while Enthusio needs to keep busier or he gets bored and rambunctious. Nevertheless, I do feel the guilt really kicking in when I start to feel like they are unhappy or overwhelmed in their activities, much more so than I ever get when they are home -- which is pretty ironic when you think about it.