Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Need to See Your Identification

"This is Kathy at the school office. Your son had an accident and needs a change of clothes."
The word "accident" drove a momentary pang of terror into my heart. I was imagining bleeding heads, broken limbs askew, and then it registered just what kind of accident Kathy the office attendant was talking about. Oh, that kind of accident.
I looked at the clock. It was only thirty minutes until kindergarten let out, "I can bring him a change of clothes. Then I'll just take him home. Is that all right?"
"Yes, that will be fine. See you soon."
When I got to the school I found my child sitting in the nurse's office, hunched over and forlorn. I took him back to the bathroom to change him.
"You just have to be quicker to get to the bathroom next time," I said in my everything-is-okay mother voice.
"I did but someone was already in there!" he complained.
"Oh," I was sorry I had blamed him, "Well, these things happen sometimes. Are you ready to go home?"
As I left the nurse's office and came around the counter I asked Kathy the office attendant, "Do I need to sign him out?" it was only five minutes until the bell.
"Yes." she told me.
I started filling out the information on the "Student Sign-Out" log. I got hung up on "Reason." This was not something simple like "dentist" or "orthodontist." How should I put it? I had to bring my child a change of clothes and decided to just take him home simply would not fit in the little rectangle, even with my tiniest print.
"Have you been helped?" a stranger, some new worker at the office, came up to the counter.
"Just signing out my child." I said, deciding to put the word "accident" under "Reason."
"I'll need to see your photo I.D." she said.
"I haven't got it." I told her. I had walked. I live one block from the school, so walking is faster than taking my car. I don't need a license to walk to school. "Kathy knows me." I looked around for her, but Kathy had vanished.
The woman took a deep breath as if getting ready for a battle, "Kathy might know you, but I don't. You can take him this time, but in the future, you need to bring your ID."
My mother instincts were raging. This woman dared to suggest that they might not hand over my own flesh and blood just because I didn't bring a little plastic card with my name and picture on it? "I can sit right over there and wait for five minutes if it's a problem." I said through gritted teeth, thinking I've had children at this school for four years, I volunteer at this school for five hours a week, grab any teacher out of the hall and she or he can probably tell you who I am, but you need to see my ID? What am I, chopped liver???
"No, that's fine. You can go. Just remember to bring it next time."
As if I should have known the school would suddenly after four years start insisting on checking ID whenever a parent takes out a student! I stomped out of the office and got halfway down the block before I had to stop. I felt terrible. I had been rude! I had been one of those rude parents that the office staff tell "I just can't believe she was so rude" stories about. I had to go back and apologize.
"Can I help you?" Kathy the old familiar office attendant had reappeared when I reached the school office again.
"I just came back to apologize to . . ." I didn't know the new woman's name so I just pointed at the top of her blond curly head which I could see over the barrier of her cubicle.
"I'll get her for you."
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry I was rude. I do understand and I appreciate you trying to keep my children safe."
"That's okay," she took my hand over the counter and smiled at me.
I sobbed half the way home.


Teric said...

Why is it so easy to get angry at things like this? I mean, if we step back and look at the situation, it's obvious that she was just trying to follow proper protocol and protect the students from being carried off by strange people.

But in the moment, there's something inside us that rages against the perceived injustice and inconvenience.

I'm sorry that happened, Rebecca. *hugs* Sometimes it's so hard to be nice to everybody like we're supposed to.

Mary said...

I would cry on the way home too. Too funny!

Kira said...

It's hard thinking that someone else has control over our children, isn't it? They are trying to keep your kids safe ... but you have been there for years, volunteering and everything ... even working on the PTA. Frustrating ... you are better than I am ... never would have gone back to apologize. **Hugs** :)