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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Guardians of our Children

You send your kids off on the schoolbus, or to the sporting event, and entrust them to the teachers and coaches.  Unfortunately, as we are hearing on the collegiate level, many of the caregivers and authority figures are not reliable.

We had something happen last week.  The three younger children were at a sport which shall remain nameless, which was scheduled to last from 4:00 to 5:30 pm.  As it becomes darker and colder earlier and earlier, the coaches decided to let the group go home before their usual quitting time.  In this remote location, none of the children walk home, but are picked up by parents.  The other kids called their parents, or some have moms who sit there in their cars the whole time, so they left.   Then the coaches left.

And our three younger kids stood there, in the darkness.

All alone.

Left behind.

Minutes pass.

“Where are Mama and Papa?” Sashenka started.  “Do you think they forgot us?”

“Nooo…” Mashenka replied, the voice of reason.

“Everyone else is gone…” she started panicking.

“One or the other will be here.  They always get us,” Mashenka replied to her sister.

“Vee should valk home,” Pasha declared.

“How can we do that?” Mashenka asked.  “You don’t know the way, and we have all of our heavy sports equipment with us….”

“They are never coming,” Pasha fueled Sashenka’s fires with his voice of positivity.

Naturally, they were children who couldn’t grasp the fact that our family was always early to any event.  If we were on time, we were late by our standards.  Never mind the day in, day out, weeks, months, and years of events that one or another of us had driven them to.  The one day everyone leaves early, their past abandonment issues are triggered 0-60 in 2 seconds’ flat.

“We’re staying here,” Mashenka took charge.

Of course, this was the one week that Benedetto was picking them up as I was scheduled to speak somewhere.  He arrived at 5:24 and was flabbergasted to see not a soul in sight.  All was dark… and then he made out our children’s silhouettes.  He drove up to them standing by the parking lot’s curb.

“Where is everyone?” he asked, trying not to sound alarmed.

“They left,” Pasha announced.

“Why did they leave?  It’s not 5:30, yet….  I’m early.  Where are the coaches?”

“They all left,” Sashenka sobbed.

“They left?  Well, I’m here,” he hugged the kids.  “Let’s get in the car.  I’m calling the head coach.  This is not alright.”

Once their gear was loaded, and the kids were buckled in, my husband had the head coach on speed dial.  He had not been at the event, and apologized profusely, saying it wouldn’t happen again and he would check into what had taken place.

From all we can imagine, our three youngest children were left in the darkness for all of ten minutes or so.  The next week was their final meet, and we reiterated the importance of watching out for children under one’s care.  As another parent, not even a coach, I would have stayed to care for a child on his own.  But the parents had left with their own children assuming that the last coach would watch over any stragglers.

I would suppose in this day and age, we should be thankful that some pervert coach didn’t stay in the darkness with our kids…!  But the abandonment was bad enough.

We spent the next few days reviewing again and again:  If we had car trouble, we would call a family friend to get you; if we were stuck in traffic just remain in the same place until we arrive; if a coach decides to leave, insist that he call us first.  I think the kids “got it”.  I certainly hope that the coaches “got it”.

(And we heard that the offending coach, by his own choice, will not be returning after the New Year….)

How much faith do you have in teachers or coaches when your kids are in their care?



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16 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Kathleen says:

    Okay, I hate that this happened. I am getting anxious just thinking about it. I am glad they were wise enough to stay put even though they were worried. My kids would not have been even as calm about it as your three appear to have been. Hug them for me.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks, Kathleen, I’m telling you, I felt like strangling that coach-! Thankfully, I had a speaking engagement and couldn’t become “involved” at that moment. When I saw them, I hugged them, told them that what had happened was NOT right, that we would never leave them somewhere, and that we would talk about it later. Which we did… again and again. At least they’re older and travel a lot, so maybe that helped them a bit, but STILL….

  2. avatar Gwendolyn says:

    This is a horror! And especially for our kids… kids who’ve lost everything, at least twice over, and are trying to figure out how to feel safe in the world.

    Generally, I have HUGE faith in the people around our children… except when it comes to imagining what might be going on inside their minds and souls.

    Even the situation I described the other day was a failure of imagination: 90+% of the ELL in our schools are here as the result of political disruption in their country of birth. Most are with their families, but many have been through refugee camps and internment camps. EXCEPT our kids, whose families have been gutted and whose experience of loss has not been moderated in any way by love and support from the parents who gave them life. For the other kids, the parenthesis part of the story WAS THEIR STORY, more or less, no shock, but for our kids, especially younger DD who had just decided to let down her guard, it was a shock of the greatest magnitude.

    You might want to coach your kids not to give compliant answers, like when an adult says, “Will you be okay here until your parents pick you up?” The correct answer is a resounding “NO!” but the compliant answer is, “Yeah, sure.”

    • avatar admin says:

      I wish, Gwendolyn! I wish the coaches had asked our kids anything. We knew that one was there (the one working with them), but all three apparently left at the same time and just said, “Okay, we’ll see you next time, kids!” Talk about unconscious. We might need more mom-coaches, no lady in her right mind would just leave kids on their own…. (Sorry, guys, I know most of you would not, either.)

  3. avatar Winnie says:

    So far I’ve had good luck with coaches etc. The football coach did cut practice short one day and I showed up 15 mins early and it was only my son left with the coach and his son on the field. The next week we all got e-mails proclaiming practice would end earlier.

    Maybe get the kids a pre-paid cell you could send with the most responsible so they can call if something crazy happens again, or even to use just so they don’t have to sit and wait – with or w/o a coach. I’ve been thinking of this for my 8 yo, the only problem with that is it’s one more thing for him to lose!

    • avatar admin says:

      I agree, Winnie, it’s good to have a way to communicate. Usually, our 4 are together and the oldest is the keeper of the smoke signals to contact us-! The younger three would think it’s for them to call Timbuktu… or yes… to lose….

  4. avatar AP says:

    And why oh why do these things always have to happen to the children who would be the most upset by it?

    Big hugs to all of you!

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks, AP, they were upset for all of one night. We discussed it again later that night, and again the next day (and probably 50x since then, lol, just in low-key ways to reassure). But I think we parents COULD NOT BELIEVE IT-! We tried not to go into over-the-top reactive mode, or scan the online list of registered predators…. Call me a helicopter parent, but there are no second chances….

  5. EEEK. At 8 years old, Jupiter is still not comfortable with me leaving while she does an activity. She will stay in the karate room by herself, as long as she pretty much knows which specific treadmill I’m on in the workout area. Swimming; I’m in the pool area. Dance..waiting room. Or on a bad day, on a bench outside the dance studio. Riding…in the viewing room or the viewing area of the ring. And as for field trips; well they trigger all possible abandonment emotions. So we haven’t run into this yet. It was definitely not okay for the responsible coaches to leave without ensuring all the kids had been picked up. But you’re right; if we had been the parents there and there were kids who weren’t picked up yet; we would have waited until their adult came. Because who knows who would come along if we didn’t.

    The Arthur cartoon on PBS did an episode a season or two ago about Arthur and Buster having to wait 13 1/2 minutes to be picked up after sports practice because the parent got stuck in traffic (it was still light in Elwood City though).

    • avatar admin says:

      EEEEK is right, Wendy! This is what I get for “trying” to let go (these 3 are ages 11, 13, 15, probably with the 15 y.o. acting the youngest-! Our other 15 y.o. is going on 25…), giving them an hour and a half without moi hovering nearby. There are always kids there, always coaches there, no one-on-one time for anyone to pull anything funny. And then they get left. Who would have thought? And Arthur did an episode on it? We should elect him for President….

  6. avatar Sybil says:

    Stupid, stupid, stupid coach – that makes me sooooo angry. It is so important that you make sure that your children know that no matter the circumstance, they know you will never forget them. Also they can say to an adult that they shouldn’t leave until their parents come. I hate to tell you that it happens way too often and it happened to our family when our son was young and we blew up. It should be made clear that an adult sees that every child/teen is off safely home when the first “team” meeting with the parents or group meeting such as scouts, etc. happens. Why is this not the first thing in their rule books?

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks, Sybil, it really helps to hear everyone’s comments. We were beginning to think that things had changed and we were too “out of it” to know about the new rules-!

  7. avatar hoonew says:

    I know this is a sensitive subject for your children. Our 5 year old son, adopted from Russia at age 2, is very tuned in to “children who have no families.” Last night we were driving around, and he spotted someone on the sidewalk, whom he thought might be a “boy who has no family.” I think he wants me to pull over and ask, and pick them up and take them to our house.

    We had (another) discussion about how children with no families are taken care of in this country. How we don’t have detsky doms, but we do have foster families. “But what if there are more children-who-have-no-families than there are foster families?” Well, the state would find some more foster families. “But what if there are more children, before more foster families can be found?” Well, the existing foster families would double bunk and take in the extra kids that way. The pain of having no place to go, and no one to be with is still there. He still freaks out in a crowd, if he loses sight of me just for a moment.

    Am glad your children held it together. Agree that a mom-coach wouldn’t have let this happen.

    • avatar admin says:

      There are special sensitivities, aren’t there, hoonew? I don’t see that as all bad. If you’re overly-sensitive, it’s going to be rough in life, but a little bit of sensitivity might be nice nowadays. I liken it to having a bruise–if it’s already tender, then we don’t need anyone hitting us in the exact same spot…!

  8. avatar Anne says:

    This happened to us about a week after we moved to a new city with our 8 year old daughter adopted two years earlier. The schoolbus dropped her off at the wrong drop off point and we waited at another. She waited for 20 minutes in a city she hardly knew not knowing which way home was. It was agreed with the bus company that they must never drop her off, if we weren’t there to receive her but had to take her back to school and ring us. They didn’t. I completely lost it when I figured out what happened. She was in tears when we found her. We reiterated again and again that we would always come to get her and that she should stay where she is. She got over it pretty quickly but I don’t know what she really felt on that day.

    • avatar admin says:

      Oh, Anne, I’m so sorry that occurred! A new town, the wrong bus stop, waitng and waiting-! Now that I think about it, I remember when I started kindergarten. It was a half-day that began at noon, so my mother dropped me off and the bus brought me home. Somehow we didn’t know that the buses stopped halfway and everyone changed buses for the second half of the journey at a duckpond parklike setting-?! I had no idea where to go (or where my big brother might have been), but another girl saw me and said, “I know where she lives” and took me on her bus. Whew! The feeling of being lost in a new situation was scary and I didn’t have any underlying “issues” (at least that I know of-!)….

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