The 4th suggestion in the top 10 list of “What not to do when you are a parent” lists, “dropping off a child and not waiting for them to get inside” , as a suggested no-no.
I can now officially add this to my list of parenting mistakes.
Kicking a football in the face of a friends child (you can read that here), leaving my young children alone in a hotel room, (that one’s here too), losing them in a park, (yup here’s the story), watching them corner a 5ft lizard (which I’ve yet to mention to my wife and write about) and accidentally letting them drink a shot of vodka at a hotel are a few more of my poor parenting choices.
Over the years I have waited hundreds of times for a child in my care to retreat into the safety of their home. Mum or dad waving thankyou to me as their precious is returned.
I make. One. Little. Mistake. A child goes missing. And all of a sudden I’m the bad guy.
Funny how quickly all the good drop offs are forgotten.
I say child. The kid is nearly 14.
So what is the cut-off age for the drop’n’drive? Is there one?
This boy, let’s call him John, is a good friend of Max’s. Our families are close.
John is a responsible young man.
“I’ve forgotten my key and mum and dad are not home.” John says as he exits my car.
“I’ll climb around the side of the house, retrieve the hidden key and enter through the back door” he continues with the confidence and eloquence of a 30 year old.
“No worries give me a call if there’s a problem” and with a flick of the wrist I wave cheerio and I’m gone
“John doesn’t have his phone”, my son tells me as we drive off
I remember having to make a conscious decision. Turn around and make sure he made it inside safely or drive off.
“Text John when we get home and make sure he got inside” I say as I floor it. Homeward bound.
4 hours later the phone rings. It’s John’s mum.
The phone felt like a hot coal in my hand. My instinct was to throw it as far away as I could.
But I take a breath and pick up. I hear the 4 words you never want to hear when you do a drop’n’drive.
“Is John with you?”
My dramatic pause is worthy of a scene in The Bold and The Beautiful. I looked into the distance, paused, pouted and looked deep into the imaginary camera before answering confidently, albeit internally petrified.
“No. I dropped him at your house” conveniently forgetting the drop’n’drive bit, “Have you tried his phone?”
“Yes. It’s in the house. He hasn’t been inside”.
I burst out crying.
Well. I want to.
I explain my side of the story.
Mum takes it well and assumes John has walked to his Grandfathers house.
John is missing.
Meanwhile my son has sent a message on whatsapp to his groups. Within 20 seconds there’s a hashtag #findjohn.
Momentarily distracted by the efficiency of his mates rallying together I remember that John had to climb over a fence at the side of his house
I can’t help thinking he has slipped and has been dangling upside down by his ankle for the past 4 hours waiting for rescue. His engorged purple face resembling that of Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
How do I break that graphic to his mum?
I choose my words carefully
“have you checked the side of your house?” my voice pitching 2 octaves higher than normal
“Yes. AND the pool” comes the response.
Oh Christ. She mentioned ‘checking the pool’ I’m in so much trouble.
In the end it was all fine. John was missing for about 40mins. But he wasn’t really missing he had walked to someones house. He was walking between that house and his parents – hoping to catch them. Ultimately he had done the right thing and was completely fine.
But everyone knew that I had done the drop’n’drive. I was getting dirty looks for the rest of the week. My ears were burning. I felt like I’d been cast out. Shunned.
As my friends keep telling me. It’s my fault. I was the last one to have him in my care.
Personally I blame the parents. But for Gods sake. Don’t tell them.