What is THE most worrying thing about the school run? That school run dread? For me it is the children running off ahead, in the midst of heads and coats, long socks and black shoes… they’re gone! I had that today for the first time and I have never been more scared in my life. I thought Isla was gone, it is amazing how I immediately felt consumed with guilt that it was my fault. It is not something I want to endure again in a hurry, I am sure the children feel the same.
It is safe to say that the children just do what they want, the majority of the time, when it comes to me and discipline. Don’t get me wrong, I can discipline them and when I am cross they know I mean it. I don’t shout the loudest but sometimes that’s worse than screaming at someone, isn’t it? In the playground I am the one, usually, shouting “wait up Noah/Isla”, “don’t run off” and today was no exception. I said to Noah and Isla let’s wait for Noah’s friend (as we park near each other), I turned around and turned back, they had run off.
At this point I could see them in the distance, about 25 metres away, running around the corner of the school into the main playground. Reception have a smaller playground, tucked away by the field. As I walked, very quickly, to get to the main playground – to flag them down and tell them to stop running off they had vanished. The sea of coats, blue cardigans/jumpers, socks and shoes had hidden them well. That instant feeling of dread and the question “where are my babies?” floating around my head. The look of fear was obviously written all over my face. I clocked eyes with one mum from Isla’s preschool behind me and I said I had lost the kids. I turned back to face the front, hoping that they had stopped at the school playground gates. This is sometimes where they wait when they walk quickly with their friends that scoot out of school. They were not there. At this point the other mum pointed at Noah as he ran past her, past me. So I ran back to speak to Noah and find out where Isla was.
The look of fear was not only on my face now, but Noah’s too. He was panicking, he couldn’t see Isla. She had gone and he didn’t know where she had gone to. If Noah didn’t see where she had gone, then I was in trouble. She could have been anywhere at this point. There are three paths out of school, we use all three so Isla knew all of them and children were running around the playground and walking out with their mums/dads, making it hard to see clearly.
At this point I was obviously getting hysterical, Noah’s friends mum kept Noah with her so I could search for Isla. She too kept a look out at the school gates, just in case Isla came back around that area. My instinct told me to check the car, in case she had run to the car and not realised I was not with her. But I just ran around in circles, on the point of breaking down, another mum stood with me and said she would look down one path for me, whilst I ran to the car (which is a good 300 metres away). So I ran. I ran so fast, dropping everything on my way, looking at every single child I went past to see if it was Isla. No luck.
It had been 10 – 12 minutes at this point. She could have been anywhere, with anyone. I felt sick. I tried to remain calm, thinking about the logical process of what I would need to do: phone Daddy, the police etc. I ran back to school and as I walked up to near the school gates, the first mum shouted we got her! The words that at that point you just so longed to hear. Then just in the distance I saw little Isla, walking with her friend from preschool and her mum, also Noah, his friend and his mum.
I dropped to the floor and gave her a big squeeze and explained how sad and frightened I was, that I thought I had lost her. One of the mums explained she was in the field, scared as she couldn’t see me and she had fallen over, she was talking to one of her other friends. So she had run in one direction out of school, then run back to where I had been in the first place and hadn’t see me, nor I her.
We got in the car, strapped up and I just burst into tears. My hands were shaking, my heart was racing and I just cried and cried. At this point Isla was crying too, she said she was scared that she had lost Mummy. It took me a good hour to calm down. I know it wasn’t a long period of time to be lost, but it only took 2 seconds for her to disappear. She could have been anywhere in that time and you just do not realise until it happens. I felt like the ground had swallowed me up.
Since we have all calmed down and stopped crying, we have discussed a safety waiting point. So if we ever get lost we must wait by the school gates, this way we cannot run past each other. Staying still by the gates will be the safest option. It is also where the head teacher waits and says good bye to all the children and parents – probably to make sure this very thing doesn’t happen.
I’ve learnt a big lesson today and also feel very lucky that she is home safe and sound.