The Un-Collected Child

It was bound to happen at some point. At 6:00pm, there was no one at school waiting to pick up Justin. He stood in the lobby of daycare with his face pressed against the window.  His warm breath fogged the lower part of the glass and there was a smudge where his forehead had once pressed against the window. (I’m guessing. I don’t really know.) His eyes darted back and forth searching the parking lot…hoping that one of his parents would be in the next car entering the gate. We weren’t even close. I blame GWE and she blames me. Like the sage Jimmy Buffett once said, “Some people claim there’s a woman to blame, but I know – it’s my own damn fault.”

Let’s review! As per our usual routine, GWE and I worked out our pick-up/drop-off schedule for Justin on Sunday night. She clearly told me (and put in writing) that she would be bringing Justin to daycare on Friday AND pick him up that evening.

However, as Thursday rolled around, GWE told me how busy she was and how she needed more time to get her work accomplished. I nodded like the dutiful husband and listened to her concerns – but clearly don’t remember her saying, “Please pick up Justin from school tomorrow.”

Around noon on that Friday, GWE called me once again to tell me how busy she was. In addition, she even sent me a text message warning me of heavy traffic on the 405 heading back into the valley. I thought that was very sweet of her. She had never warned me of upcoming traffic before, but I thanked her and told her I would be careful on my way home. I figured I was in no rush and decided that I would leave after a majority of the traffic dissipated.

At 5:34pm I decided to call GWE to see how close she was to getting Justin. (I was concerned since she did go to the effort of informing me of the traffic issues just a few hours earlier.)  Here is the conversation, to be best of my recollection:

Me: Hi, I’m just checking to see where you are.

GWE: I’m at the office, where are you?

Me: I’m at the office. (pause) Aren’t you picking up Justin?

GWE: silence

Me: Really, aren’t you supposed to be picking him up?

GWE: You’ve got to be kidding me.

Me: What?????

GWE: YOU’RE supposed to be getting him!!

Me: No, I’m not. The schedule says that YOU’RE getting him!

GWE: No, I told you last night that you needed to get him because I’m busy!

Me: No, you told me you were busy. You didn’t say “Get Justin.”

GWE: Yes, I did!! And I even sent you a text telling you that traffic was going to be heavy!!!!

Me: You missed the part of the text where you said “Traffic is going to be heavy…WHEN YOU’RE GETTING JUSTIN!!!”

GWE/ Me: Oh shit……I’m leaving right now!!!!

Skip ahead 25 minutes – GWE and I are racing up the 405 like Smokey and the Bandit trying to get to daycare. In the car, all I kept thinking was how this was going to be yet another damaging incident in Justin’s life caused by his parents. I imagined this moment would be so Earth-shattering for him that years later he and his therapist would be able to pin-point it as the exact moment his life fell apart. This is how serial killers are created.

I arrived a few moments after GWE and expected to find Justin crying and huddled in the corner in the fetal position. As I walked up to the school I heard, “YAY….IT’S DADDY!!” I was shocked to find Justin happy, playful, and completely unaffected by the events of the past 30 minutes.

As we put him into his car seat, we asked him if he was ok. He laughed and said, “I wanna go to Islands behind the Toys R Us for dinner! Let’s go mommy and daddy!!”

There are two lessons of the day: 1) Justin is far more calm, cool, and collected than his parents. 2) Justin may need to get his drivers’ license earlier than expected.


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