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Do Restraining Orders Count on PTA Nights?

Ok, so I said yesterday that the first day
of school went MOSTLY well, with one notable exception.

Here’s the exception.

Cora and I hit the pool after dropping Maddie off, which is just a
block or two away from the school. We swam for quite a while,
enjoying ourselves and the empty pool for much of the morning. When
we finally left, it was 11 a.m. and as I looked casually towards
the school, I saw that there were children playing at recess on the
playground. I knew they were too old to be Maddie’s class,
but it got me thinking.

As a child, I loved school. I absolutely
adore learning and had a great time for twelve years. There are,
however, two times in the regular school day that I worry about for
Maddie: lunch time, and recess. Lunch time’s not too
worrisome in elementary school – after all, the whole class
has to sit together so there’s not as much of that popularity
stuff going on. But recess is another story, and I had a big fear
that Maddie would be the kid sitting all by herself at recess with
no one to play with. Or even worse – beaten to a pulp behind
some fence by a hidden bully for wearing the wrong color shoes.

I knew these fears were unrealistic; Maddie’s good about
speaking up for herself, for one, and for two, she already knew at
least half a dozen people on the playground before school had even
started. So the chances of her sitting at the playground bench,
unwanted, for half an hour were pretty slim. Nonetheless, this
vision haunted me as I walked Cora home, and I had no way to
reassure myself: the school had cleverly not given the parents a
daily schedule, so I didn’t know where Maddie was
minute-to-minute. Finally, though, the stress grew too great, and
when I got home I called a friend with ties to the school.

Here is what followed.

Me: “Hi, it’s Jennifer. Listen, you know I
haven’t asked you for a lot over our friendship, and I
normally wouldn’t ask you to betray your ethical standards or
do something wrong, but . . .”

My Friend: (laughing uncertainly): “Wow, that’s quite
an opening statement!”

Me: “Yeah. Anyway, I know you know details from our school,
and I’ve been sitting here thinking, and –


“I’m going to need to know when Maddie goes to

My Friend: “That would be right now. I have to confess I was
thinking about driving by and seeing if my child was doing

Me: “I’m leaving the house now. Do you want me to pick
you up on the way?”


My Friend: “I’ll be waiting outside.”

Five minutes later, my mini-van pulled up on the opposite side of
the street as the playground. (subtle, right?) I put the car in
park and scanned the playground anxiously. “Where are all the
kids? There are only about forty children here, not eighty!”
I said.

“The kindergarten classes come out staggered, so
they’ll all be here within a few minutes,” my friend
reassured me.

Suddenly, I saw Maddie standing by herself near a slide. My heart
skipped a beat and I felt tears begin to well up. And then, like in
the slow-motion dream sequence of a movie, Elise stepped out from
the shadows and took Maddie’s hand. The two girls were
already out, playing together, and quite content. I smiled happily,
blinking back tears, and began to snap photos to prove to
Elise’s mom that I’d checked on her child and she was
fine. My friend, alas, had just realized that her child’s
class was not yet outside, and she was anxiously scanning the front
door for signs of another group of children.

Right around this time, I began to wonder why I didn’t see
any teachers on the playground. Deciding they were somewhere in the
nebulous “back” of the playground, I chose not to look
this gift horse in the mouth and continued to stare, content, at my
daughter. I was perfectly happy to sit there and wait for my friend
to see her child form play connections of his own before I drove

As if on cue, Maddie’s teacher suddenly materialized.
I’m not kidding – one minute she wasn’t there,
and the next, she was striding in front of the slides, whipping her
sunglasses off her face, clearly making a beeline for the fence.
And me.

I turned to my friend, panicked. “What should I do? Should I
speed away? I think she’s coming over here!” I was
squealing, my very own Keystone Kop movie right there in the
mini-van. “No! Don’t drive away!” my friend
wisely shouted. “She’ll note your car!

Just roll down your window and talk to her!”

At this moment, my friend’s child came out of the building
and began moving towards the playground, again in slow-motion. I
could see this was going to be tight: would we be able to stay long
enough to see him make contact?

Sheepishly, I rolled down the window and waved in what I hoped was
a non-threatening manner from across the street.

The teacher didn’t wave back. At least I've never seen her
gesture be considered a wave.

“Yeah, we don’t like stalkers here,” she said

I tittered, and muttered something inane about first-day parental
jitters. “I was just . . .”

“I know what you were ‘just’,” she said.
“So take a quick peak and move along m’kay? Otherwise
we have to report stalkers to the police.”

“Police! Great idea! I mean, not for me, but thank you for
being so good at watching for crazy people. Not like me, but, you
know, real crazy, not parent crazy,” I said. She stared,
trying to figure out if I had taken my meds, flipped her hand in
the “move along” sign, then turned and walked away.

By this time, my friend’s child had hit the playground and
was standing. Alone. “Look! There he is! But he’s not
playing with anyone! Just go talk to someone, son,” she
urged. I spotted another friend’s child in the crowd.
“Oh, look – there’s someone else! I should take
her picture just to prove I saw her doing well,” I said,
picking the camera back up.

“Are you crazy?” my friend shrieked. “Don’t
take more pictures – she’s watching you! You already
look like a stalker! Just drive!”

I threw the car into drive and pulled away. “Ok, here’s
what I’m going to do. I’m going to go to the end of
this block and make a u-turn. I have to in order to get home
anyway. I’ll drive back by the park – I can’t
slow down or they’ll book me for sure, but I’ll do what
I can and we’ll see if your son’s doing ok.”

Driving past the school, I turned around and began grimly driving
back, almost anticipating cement road blocks in front of me by the
time I got back. Keeping my eyes innocently forward and my foot on
the gas, I drove past the playground. My friend hunched down in her
seat and scanned the horizon until – “Oh, look!
He’s found Elise and Maddie! They’re all three playing
together now!”

Mission accomplished, we drove back home, well-satisfied.

When I got home, I told Brian what had happened and he looked
extremely anxious. “Listen, we can’t afford for the
school to issue a RESTRAINING ORDER against you on the FIRST DAY,
so can you keep your Lucy Ricardo escapades under control from now

I looked at Brian with injured dignity. “As a matter of fact,
I’m simply going to email the teacher, take full ownership of
the incident, and apologize.”

Brian looked, if anything, more worried. “Listen, I know you.
When you think people don’t like you then you go into
overdrive and get a little crazy. So no witty, funny things that
can be misconstrued in an email, ok? And let’s just keep it
to one email, ok? Just one email and then LET IT GO.”

I sent a breezy, self-deprecating-but-morally-responsible email. I
did not get a reply back.

But listen – I would do it all again. I saw my girl happy and
fitting in on the playground, and that was good enough for me. And
beyond that, I was able to reassure five other parents that I saw
their kid, healthy and well-adjusted during recess. I’m happy
to take one for the team.

But I probably should lay low for the rest of the semester. And get
a mighty fine teacher’s gift for Christmas.


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