Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Unitentional School Lock-In

Ah, the things our kids don't tell us.

Last night we had Ainsley's open house at her school. I got to meet her teacher, hear the teacher talk about her expectations for the class, and show all the things they are going to do this year. God bless the first grade teachers.

At the end, we could meet one on one with the teacher and ask questions. I talked to the teacher about the birthday treat policy since the kid has a birthday coming up, and after we were finished she pulled me aside.

"Did she tell you about the bathroom incident today?"

Oh, dear lord.

Ains told me what she had for lunch, who she played with at recess, how easy 1st grade was so far, the title of the book she checked out from the library, and even how she was proud that she figured out her new belt without help. But I heard nothing about an "incident."

Apparently, during a bathroom break, Ainsley went to the stall in the girls' bathroom whose door gets stuck from time to time. She got in there and even with a healthy pull could not get the unlocked door to open.

"I heard this scream that sounded like someone was being murdered," her teacher said. The bathroom is right next to the 1st grade classroom. "When I went in there I could tell she was really panicked. She was crying and screaming for help. I calmed her down and helped her get the door open. And then I let her get some water; I know that scream had to have hurt her throat."

And yet, this didn't get any coverage in Ainsley's top news stories of the night.

Bear in mind that yesterday was her second day of school, and she was still forming an impression of herself in her classmates' and teacher's minds. That impression now will be, "That girl who locked herself in the bathroom and screamed 'til her lungs gave out."

I can put myself in her shoes and know how scary that might have been to be in a small stall with no easy way out. However, I am a little concerned about how well she keeps her cool. She is a panicker; last spring, even after years of swim lessons, she flipped out right before a lesson when she got into deep water a little further away from the side than she was used to being. When she went to touch and couldn't, she forgot everything she had been taught and bobbed up and down helplessly before finally having a lifeguard fish her out. She scares easily, and when she scares, she doesn't solve problems and think clearly.

I remember being at a department store once and going to the bathroom while my mom waited in the racks of clothes outside; I got into a stall where, once the painted door closed tight, it was hard to open again. I remember thowing my negligible weight at the time against the outward-swinging door and thinking about the problem for a minute before wiggling my way under the door to freedom. It was gross, but I got out. And I am pretty sure I didn't let out any bloodcurdling screams.

But then again, I also flipped out this March during our blizzard when my tires spun uselessly in the first few inches of powder as Ains and I tried to get up the hill into our neighborhood. Instead of, I don't know, backing up a little and trying again, I put the car in park in the middle of the street and told Ainsley we were probably going to have to abandon the car and walk home. It took a call to my husband before sense kicked in and I realized I could back out of my tracks and try again on a little firmer footing.

So maybe she gets the panic from me.

At any rate, it's going to be a while before anyone in room 1 forgets about the scream. And even longer before Ains drops trou in that stall again.

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