For a few minutes I was really freaked out. And it wasn't just me. The possibility of losing a child has always scared me, and I experienced it first-hand a few days ago. OK, So I didn't lose a child...she just decided to take off.
I went to the school at 16h25 (aka 4:25 pm) to pick up the kids. I always pick up the two younger kids first and then head next door to the other school to pick up the oldest. Children are supposed to wait with the headmistress or whatever until they see their parent/guardian/au pair. I went with the little ones to wait for Hannah (the 6-year-old), and after waiting several minutes, I started to get a little worried. I usually don't wait for her for more than a few minutes. I took the little ones and went back to their school to see if maybe she decided to wait for us there. Nothing...no sign of her. So I went back to her school to ask about her. Once again, nothing. This all happened within probably 1 to 2 minutes. Then I had nothing to do but call Sophie, her mother. This is a call that every parent fears, and I knew it, but I had to do it asap.
Sophie told me that it was "impossible" ...that there was no way she could have just left on her own. I, on the other hand was thinking the following: she could have easily left here alone, this place is the definition of chaotic, and she would definitely try to pull something like this. In a panicked state, I stayed there as instructed, and paced from one school entrance to the other, not knowing what to do other than wait. Probably 5 minutes later, which seemed like 30 at the time, the grandmother called me to inform me that she had just arrived at the house and Hannah was there as well. Huh. I could breathe again. I about burst into tears, but kept it together for the little ones. I told them the good news (I knew they were worried too), called Sophie, and headed home, all the while trying to calm down.
When I got to the apartment, there was the grandmother and Hannah waiting for me to let them in. Hannah looked at me with eyes that said oh crap, please have mercy on me. I asked her why she left the school without me. She answered that she wanted to walk home all by herself. She knew that that was completely against the rules, but I'm pretty sure she wanted to see if she could get away with it because this is just the type of thing she would pull. Anyway, she talked to her dad via cellphone and of course sobbed after, knowing that her immediate future was not going to be fun. I talked with her for a while, explaining how worried I was and how she can't do what she did, etc.
My anxiety level probably did not go down until four hours later, but at least I could breathe. Looking back, I am amazed at how clearly one thinks in a crisis. I know nothing serious happened to her, but it could have and I knew it, and I kept it together. She, of course, changed her story in an attempt to avoid serious punishment, trying to blame her leaving on the fact that she didn't see me. Ha...as if she didn't know that she was supposed to wait. Well, she did get a punishment and now waits inside, right to the side of the headmistress person until I inform her that I am there.
I still can't believe that a 6-year-old decided to walk home all by herself. This is maybe a 10-15 minute walk involving street crossings, etc. in Paris. I am just so happy that she is safe and will probably never pull that particular stunt again.