With our au pairs, I've been pretty lenient as well. Children's well-being is priority #1. Other things we handle as they come. We handled our car being totaled by one. Including a follow up "garage-scraping" which she rectified by paying for the bodywork. We've handled too much perfume. Too much talking on the phone. Too many burned utensils. Too much impatience. Too many clothes put in the wrong drawers. Too many laundry items turned pink by lack of appropriate sorting. Today, my limits were tested.
We've been "practicing" leaving Son #1 at home alone. 30 minutes while I go pick up dinner. 45 minutes while I do a more thorough shopping. Hour while I get my haircut. He knows the rules - don't answer the door; no friends; answer the phone, but say your mom just can't come to the phone; no fires; never tell creepy guys online you're home alone. For the most part, he's fine - watches TV, plays Wii, chats with his buddies via text, drinks juice bags and eats me out of house and home.
Our au pairs know that he can be alone some, and often use the time to go grocery shopping or run small errands with the little guy. Can't blame them. He's much less moody than the pre-teen, and hasn't developed the same shopping aversion.
Today was different. I sent a text to our current au pair to tell her I'd be home for dinner, and that maybe we could go to Chuck E Cheese's. I hate the place, but the kids love it. I didn't hear from her for 20 minutes, so I called home. My son answered. "How are you doing, buddy?" I asked.
"Well, ok, I guess." He sounded bothered, and I probed further. "Well, AP (au pair) is not home and I don't know where she is."
My first thought was that he'd gone to a friends after school and just beat her home. Not a surprise. "How long has she been gone?"
"Well, since I came home from school" - which was over 2 1/2 hours earlier.
First, I was sane and logical. "Did she leave a note? A text? A message?" He was negative on all counts. "I tried to call her mom, but she's not answering her phone."
She is good about not talking while driving, and I gave her a little benefit of the doubt. I sent her another text to let her know Son #1 was worried and that I would appreciate a response. Nothing. I got a text a few minutes later - Son #1 found that she'd left her phone (the one I pay for) home. He was frustrated. I was frustrated.
I called again 15 minutes later, to let him know I was packing up my work and leaving the office - I didn't want him to worry. By this time she'd arrived, and I asked to speak to her. I explained how critical it was for him to know where she was, and for me to know where she was. She countered, explaining that he never wants to participate in after-school things anyway. I told her I still needed to know where she was going to be, particularly if she was going to leave him alone without a point of contact that long. Also reminded her I needed her to remember the phone so that I could always get in touch with her.
I got off the phone and found myself shaking. Maybe it was the relief of knowing nothing bad had come - that weird fight or flight reaction you get as a parent that let's you stay logical in a crisis until its all over, and the emotions hit you all at once. Maybe it was all the unanswered questions I hadn't let myself ask - was she and Son #2 missing? Hurt? Worse? Maybe it was the sheer frustration of not being able to be in control of the situation, when it was my kids on the line. Maybe it was just that awful feeling when I heard the little waver of uncertainty in Son #1's voice.
Knowing I was about to blow, I called DrChako and replayed it for him. He told me I probably wasn't in a good state to go have a logical conversation with her about the importance of communication. I could still feel myself shaking, near tears. And so he convinced me to do a little anger management session using one of my favorite therapies.
$50 and and hour later, with a bag full of new walking shoes and these bad boys, I was much more cool and collected. The kids were safe, and tomorrow I can remind her that when it comes to my boys, you can NEVER be to careful.
Who says 4 1/2 inches of platform cork stilettos and leather can't make it all better, especially when they are on sale?