I was walking the boys on the beautiful path from school to the car, the stroll that usually contains questions like, "Mom, can we…?" "Mom, did you…?" and I never seem to have the right answers.
There is always some degree of happiness and another degree of frustration as they are excited to be finished with school and simultaneously making plans for their afternoon and breathing the release of stepping out of the scheduled day, and this recipe always brings some kind of emotional meltdown.
One would think it's an easy stride, because who doesn't want to be done with the structured part of the day? But I ask you, how often do your children come home from school crying or agitated? I'm no psychologist, but there's got to be something to that process of stepping back into the familiar, safe place that evokes tantrums of any age, size, and proportion.
I know it's true for me. If I feel safe with you? Look out, and listen for the tick-tock of the emotional time bomb.
We were walking down the sidewalk, and I saw this little girl, too young to be in school, so she was surely a younger sibling of one of the students, sitting in the levy. Crying, crying, crying. Sweet little snotty face, a strand of hair stuck to her wet cheeck, and she was looking all around, calling for Mommy.
I know a lost child when I see one, I thought. I stepped away from my kids and down into the ravine. "Hi, sugar. Are you okay? Where's your mommy? Do you need help?"
No answer, just more crying. But not louder crying, so at least I know I haven't terrified her.
I scooped her up, and as I began looking with her for her mom, the mom walked over to us and took her daughter into her own arms.
"Oh, is she yours?"
"Yes. She's throwing a fit."
Aha. She's not lost. Her mom did the classic Walk Away strategy. And here I came, SuperMom, to save the day and rescue her daughter from these consequences.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I thought she was lost." Turns out, I don't know the difference between a lost child and one who is sitting out a consequence on the side of the road.
I did that thing I hate. When my kids were smaller, I really hated it when someone got involved to cheer up my children when I was in the middle of a discipline battle.
"Oh, hey, buddy. Are you sad? Here's a lollipop."
"Oh, you're too cute to look so mad, little guy!"
One woman even began singing to my son while we were in the middle of a mother-son throwdown.
And here I was. I did that thing.
The little girl and her mom walked away, probably to continue their discussions and negotiations in the car.
And I returned to my children, who were now panicked and lost because I had wandered away from them without warning.
It was just an awesome moment. I'm so glad I could help, really, everybody in that scene.