When I was five years old, a neighbor friend and I decided to run away. I made it to the end of our driveway when our next door neighbor, known for his early morning hours spent manicuring his lawn, noticed me and asked what I was doing outside at 5am. I don't think I even responded, but I high-tailed it back to the house. I was grounded for a week. In the 38 years since then, I never thought about how my parents felt about my near run away. I don't remember what injustices lead my friend and me to think it was a good idea to leave the comfort of our homes and hit the road. I can't seem to remember a plan either. I do know that I wore my fancy blue shoes.
Last week, I received a text from a neighborhood friend saying that I needed to call her immediately. She found Sean walking down the street from her house and picked him up. By the time I got the message, Sean was safely in school and all was fine.
This story is pieced together mostly from what Sean shared with me and some from others involved. Break down in communication, unclear procedures combined with a scared, yet audacious boy made for a harrowing tale:
Sean was dropped off at school very early, unintentionally. He walked into the front office and not seeing the usual hustle and bustle of the opening of school, he declared that he was late to school. The secretary told him that he was most certainly not late, he was very early and although it was even too soon for the cafeteria, he could walk down there and wait for school to start. Sean protested, but in the end he was sent down the hall to the cafeteria.
As Sean approached the cafeteria, he realized it would be noisy and he would not know anyone. Sean's kindergarten class eats lunch in their classroom, so he is unfamiliar with the cafeteria. He was frightened, confused and scared. Just as he reached the cafeteria door, he made a decision and turned left and headed for the doors that lead outside. Sean's intent was to walk home, but when he spotted his teacher's car, he decided to look in his classroom windows and find her. He looked twice, but his teacher was not there.
Walking home would be a walk we have made approximately 800 times in the past four years. It is a ten-minute walk, about four long blocks and includes crossing an easy intersection with an all-way stop and another difficult crossing of a busy two-lane street.
Sean walked about half-way, crossed at the all-way stop and continued walking on the grass, along side a fence. It was at this point, that our friend found him. She could tell he was sad, but when he saw it was a familiar face, he looked relieved. My friend made several phone calls, drove by our house and when we were not available, she finally brought him into the school, which by this time was open for business. Sean was no worse for the wear and ready to get to class.
Ryan and I took several days to process the situation, understand what happened and decide on how to proceed. At the very least, all parties involved needed to take pause and understand how each small incident could have lead to a very bad result. Nothing like this needed to happen again to our child or any other.
We were so thankful to our friend for having driven past Sean at that exact moment he needed her. To her, she did nothing extraordinary, but to us, she brought our child to safety.
Not sure if it was Sean building his defense or irony when he brought home Franklin's Bad Day from the school library that very same day.