The week I had the flu, Emma fell in the toilet at school. She had to sit in a wet dress in the nurse's office while I put the baby to sleep, shoved the hair out of my face, put on some slippers and hobbled up to school taking my ripping sinus infection headache with me.
It took me a half hour from the time the office called to when I could get up to the school with her dry clothes. The school is a 30 second drive from the house, a seven minute walk.
When I got into the office looking like ten bucks, they motioned me behind the counter and when I came around I saw Emma sitting forlornly in a single lone chair by the bathroom in the little nurse's area, hands in her lap. She had been sitting there for a half an hour, in a wet dress waiting for me. She never does anything wrong. She was slightly horrified to be in the nurse's office instead of running her kindergarten class as its official hero.
I shrank to the nurse's cot next to her, holding her clothes out like a sad beacon of hope. "I'm sorry it took me so long," I said and she looked a little more hopeful. "I had to get the baby to sleep, and it took me so long, and you're sitting here all wet, I'm sorry baby," I said. Sorry I never practiced her words with her each week when I had religiously studied with Nathan in kindergarten. Sorry I had the new baby and not as much time to be prompt with the older baby (her), sorry she was the middle child and therefore potentially overlooked (I was the middle child) sorry I'm a bad mom, I love you but I left you sitting here.
She smiled at me. "I fell in the toilet by mistake." I guess the janitor had left the seat up after cleaning during the night. I helped her out of her dress and tights and undies. Helped her into some shorts and a t-shirt. She stopped being so quiet and became her more ruggedly Emmalike self. She had just felt strange sitting here in the adult area, all alone, for an ETERNITY.
I told her next time I would be there faster. Next time I would try not to have the flu, or a baby. I told her it does feel weird to sit in the office because it's not a place you usually sit. I told her I had fallen in the toilet plenty of times.
I held her hand and walked her back to class. She will always wait for me and hold my hand. She likes to do that. Her little cheerful fingers in mine.
I release her back into the wild of her classroom. Even though she's here for much of the day, I am glad she comes home and spends the rest of the time with me. Even sick and neglectful (me), and soggy (her), she's the best thing I've got going.