The 3 minute rule

I’m sitting on an old church pew in the basement of a dilapidated former church building that has been turned into our county’s parks & recreation department headquarters. I can barely breathe as they stripped the old flooring today in hopes of giving it some new life. I can almost see through the tiles to the glue underneath, they are so worn, stained and warped. The air is thick with the scent of ammonia mixed with air freshener and my eyes are stinging. The weather is gorgeous outside today, but my daughter is in a room two doors away from me for art class with a teacher who is a perfect stranger to me, so I’m sitting within earshot of art class–outside the entrance to the room where there is usually a weekly ballet class.

I’m the only parent down here, all the other kids in art class have been dropped off and their parents have left to scurry around and do whatever they need to do in 1.5 hours.

My daughter is 6. There’s no way I’m dropping her off and leaving her for 1.5 hours, but that’s just my personal parenting choice. I’m probably extra jumpy and careful especially after my recent experience of sitting on a jury in a courthouse about a mile from here.

There is usually a ballet class going on at the same time as this art class, but it’s fall break for the ballerinas and there’s no class tonight. Probably explains why the building is so empty. It’s actually pretty creepy in here. A little girl was just dropped off for ballet–her dad dropped her off in the parking lot and left.

Thankfully there was another ballet student whose mom had walked her in, found the newsletter posted on the wall stating that they did not have class tonight. The mom proceeded to ask the abandoned girl if her parent was waiting for her in the parking lot. “No.” Then she asked if she knew her mom or dad’s phone number. “No.” What about a grandparent or neighbor–anyone? Did she know anybody’s phone number who might be able to contact her mom or dad? “No. This happened to me once before. My dad just leaves. I tried to make a 3 minute rule, and he did it one time but then he always forgets and he just leaves.”

groan

Other mom did a great job by responding, “all parents are busy and sometimes we just forget things, I’ve done it before too. I’ll go get my phone and purse then take you upstairs to the office and see if we can find a phone number of someone to call for you.”

After I got home tonight I looked it up, and the girls in this ballet class are 9-11 years old.

Do your kids know your phone numbers in case this ever happens to one of them? I know I am overly conservative and overly cautious and borderline hover parent, but I don’t drop any of my kids off anywhere without personally and physically handing them off to a trusted adult caregiver. I had to stop my mind from going down the “what if” path on behalf of this little girl because there are a lot of potentially scary endings to this story.

One of my friends always says, “I try not to do anything that could get me on the news”. And I think that’s good advice. And if it weren’t for a few of us hover parents, there might have been a sad story on the news tonight…

And are you ever really SO busy that you put your child at risk of feeling neglected, ignored, abandoned, not as important as your schedule, and potentially left in a scary or dangerous situation?

I know I learned a lesson from observing this little girl’s situation tonight. We will be rehearsing phone numbers to make sure our kids know them and no matter how much I’m in a hurry and tempted to do a drive-by drop-off, I’ll remember this little girl’s story and her three minute rule.

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