There was no outward sign that it was going to happen. Even in hindsight, I don't see what we could have been done differently on our part to have it not happen. If only he had given us some clue that he was concerned. If only he had said something. If only he had pre-presented, as it were.
Thursday was the first day of school for the lad. He was quite excited at the prospect. He'd spent all last year, slumming with me on campus. He was excited about the teacher he was going to have. "Is she the best teacher there?" I'd answer him by lowering my voice -- so the others wouldn't hear -- and say, "The best teacher ever." All last year, I'd point her out and we'd wave to her and he'd smile at her.
He would learn how to read books! He would learn how to paint even more magnificent pictures than he currently paints! He would make new friends! He would be in kindergarten!
But then, unbeknown to us, he got a sinking feeling.
His first day was on Thursday. Up until the moment Pete let go of his hand, the lad seemed fine. In an instant, he melted. That sinking feeling dragged his sorry butt down into a puddle. He was drowning in hysterics. I wrote about it that day. His question to the principal amid his hysterics? "Will I ever see my Mom again?"
He did settle down. He had a fine first day of school once he settled down. And he was going to not cry on his second day of school, no sir. It was going to be his birthday present to me.
We didn't make it to the gate on Friday. He started crying 20 yards away. We pulled up short near the benches. And then he did what he inevitably does in moments of extreme stress for him. He puked. And then he puked again. Little puddles, really, those two. I washed them down with his bottle of water. You could barely tell.
By the time I'd gotten the principal to join me with him, his sinking feeling kicked him straight in the gut, and he spewed like only he can.
It took a few minutes, away from the classroom, sitting and talking, then walking to the bathroom, and then walking back to that gate. He didn't see his teacher walking the children into class. He only saw the remainder of the single-file line of children, followed by another woman. He hugged me. I hugged him. He was teary, but he was going.
Then, "Mom, Mom, I've got to tell you something," was his blood-curdling scream. I spun back to him. The other woman was grabbing him to keep him back. I ran up to him and opened the gate -- the hell with you lady, that's my son -- and he screamed, "That's not my teacher! That's not my teacher!" He was terrified. And then his teacher was there.
Sure, we have our theory now about the cause of it, but we didn't recognize it when it occurred. In the orientation on Wednesday, the day before the first day of school, the teacher was explaining how the kids are cared for. You leave them at the gate. And parents can't go beyond the gate. And they are so how careful about returning the kids to their parents at the end of the day. And then she made some mention of kidnapping not being possible or some such line.
And one little boy latched onto a word. And he sunk.
[Here's hoping others' sinking feelings are proved wrong. Visit Sunday Scribblings.]
[By the way, the other woman -- the one who wasn't his teacher -- is the morning kindergarten teacher. They work closely together, of course, but the lad didn't know her.]