Our youngest, AJ, was determined to get into real trouble last week. He turned 6 with some cake, a few presents, and a check from GGma. On Wednesday, AJ came out of Kindergarten wearing a cowboy hat he received as a gift. I’d missed that he was wearing it that morning. I hadn’t missed that he had his cowboy guns and told him to put them in the front seat. I saw the holster and a gun and assumed that both toy guns were safely in my view.
I was wrong. One made it into his backpack and out for all to see at recess. The “zero tolerance gun free zone” mandatory punishment is a year suspension. It’s the only case where a kindergartner can be suspended. We worried and stressed over what would happen if someone complained or if the matter was escalated. So far, he’s dodged that bullet.
On Friday, the vice principal called me and I braced myself for the worst in “zero tolerance” punishments. Instead she tells me tales of Star Wars sword play and AJ punching another kid in the head. In turn, said child punched AJ in the nose and set it to bleeding. Boys will be boys, yadda, yadda. AJ was grounded to his room when he got home from school. Which is where the story really goes off track.
Hub was working in the yard. I was still at work. After a couple of hours of laying sod, Hub went to check on the kids. Everyone was accounted for except AJ.
Hub called the neighbors to see if AJ was playing with his older brother. Not there.
Hub walked to the creek to see if AJ was playing with his sister and her friend. Not there.
Hub went back inside and yelled and tore apart the house. Even looking in clothes drawers hoping that AJ was up to mischief. Not there.
Hub walked the street yelling at an increasingly alarmed volume. AJ was not there.
Hub realized we had a big problem. He hadn’t seen our son in the last two hours and neither had any of the other kids. AJ was not hiding. He was not sleeping. He was not in the house. He was not in the yard. He was not playing with any of the neighborhood kids. He was gone. He was missing.
Hub called me as I walked out of work to break the news. As soon as I heard his voice, I knew something was horribly, desperately wrong. “AJs missing. I’ve looked everywhere. What do I do?”
I went through the list… checked the neighbors? Checked the closet? I felt anxiety like I’d never felt in my life pulling up from my gut. I started to shake and I dropped my keys.
“Call the police” “Find my baby, Hub” He didn’t hear the second part. He’d hung up.
Driving was slow motion. Simple tasks where enormously hard to discern. I work next to a one way street and I had to look both ways for traffic three times. Autopilot wasn’t working. I was awash with adrenaline but I could not fight or fly away.
There was no speeding. There was no honking and emergency lights like when Captain broke his arm. The thought of pulling into my driveway behind a police car was too much. I had to stop at the first light and throw up.
I called mom. She’s qualified for a front row seat in heaven because she married well… twice. Her former husband is a missionary and her current husband is a minister at a very powerful Baptist church. Surely their prayers could help. As soon as she answered the fear overcame me completely. I couldn’t speak. Giving voice to the possibility that my child, my BABY, might be out there hurt or alone or worse was too much. I cried. I never cry. She was terrified. For once I couldn’t comfort her. We were all supposed to be terrified.
I felt a buzzing… a vibrating… it wasn’t an electronic device, it was my head. I was going to faint or vomit again. I’m the strong one. I’m the one who can reason out any situation and I physically couldn’t drive any more. I pulled into a parking lot and stopped. I took several deep breaths. I tried to connect to that part of every mom that we hope will be there in a crisis. That connection that will tell us if our child is ok. If he’s hurt. If the worst has happened. I was half way home and a million miles away.
The phone rang then.
It was home.
AJ was home.
The police were there.
AJ had been inside a different neighbor’s house. A neighbor we didn’t know had kids. A neighbor who should have heard Hub screaming through her open window.
We had the best possible outcome. It was a misunderstanding and a kid being a kid and sneaking off to play with a new friend when he knows he’s not supposed to. It was a hard lesson, though. For ten minutes I saw the world through the eyes of a mother without the power to help her child. Without the knowledge that her child is safe and happy. For ten minutes I saw the hell that mothers go through when their child is a victim of harm or evil. It’s a window I never want to peer through again.