We had a pretty mad day on Monday. I was at work at about two in the afternoon when Michael's teacher rang to say he had walked home, on his own. She had spoken to him on the phone, he was safe, and the school principal was in his car on the way up there.
Mrs P had noticed him missing when the bell went after lunch and asked around if anyone had seen him. One kid said something about an escape capsule - which sounds like a typical Michael make-believe lunchtime game. But he escaped alright. Mrs P was very shaken, thinking he might be hurt and maybe unconscious, around the school grounds somewhere. There is the rivulet just over the fence, and a busy road not far away.
She thought to ring our home number in case one of us had taken him home. Michael answered. At first he naively said he was hiding in the school grounds. Then he said Elf was home, but he couldn't find her. He told a number of lies. But at least he answered the phone and Mrs P knew he was in a (relatively) safe place. We never leave Michael at home alone, and he certainly is not allowed to walk around the suburbs on his own.
I was completely flummoxed when I got the call from Mrs P. I caught a cab home and found Michael out the front with the principal Mr T. I took Michael inside and quizzed him about it. I was fairly calm - I hadn't known he was missing until he was safely found, so I didn't have that adrenaline that can cause you to actually spank your kid out of sheer relief that they are OK. He was also calm, and showed dismay at being caught lying, but no indication he really felt bad.
I asked him to tell me how he had got home. He walked out the front of the school quite easily. There is no fence or gate. (I actually really like the openness of the school - I would hate a culture of fear to arise resulting in high walls and security guards or ID cards). He had walked up the main road, staying on the safer side of the street with less big side streets to cross. He had crossed the main road up near our house, where the visibility is good. He said he watched the traffic for two minutes before crossing.
When he got here he climbed in through the cat door. He has done this before and it would have been an integral part of his plan. Once in, he let Winston in, fed him (for some reason), and then settled down on the couch with a book, with Winston at his feet. The very picture of the six year old contented homebody. Then the phone rang.
By 3.15 Elf had picked up Marcus and heard all about it, so she came and picked up Michael and I, and took us all back to school for a conference with Mrs P and Mr T. Michael was told the error of his ways, particularly in breaking school rules and worrying everybody in the school. Elf and I felt dreadful for them because we had been spared the nerve-wracking worry, knowing nothing about it until he was safe.
What could we do as punishment? He's such a funny kid, relying on his internal resources so much. There is nothing much you can take off him or deny him, because it's just all up here [taps head]. We just made him go to bed on time, rather than sit up to watch Masterchef like Marcus. He went along with it, then when I went down a little later his light was on and he was on the floor reading a book. Not examining his conscience, resolving to be a good boy tomorrow - just reading a book. I did my block at him then.
On Tuesday he had to spend recess in the principal's office as his school punishment. After recess he was extremely naughty again and was sent back to the principal, who kept him in his office over lunch. This time he had poured a lot of expensive food dye into a box, ruined the box and wasted the dye. Beside his effort the previous day, it was probably the worst thing he has done in his 3 years of school, but he got off lightly because it now seemed comparatively minor.
It's all so weird. He has obviously done the wrong thing. He said he did it for no other reason than that he doesn't like school and he wanted to be at home. But it has to be said he did it with aplomb. He had a plan, he followed it carefully - and he did answer the phone. It could all have ended so dreadfully in so many different ways. He does really not understand the dangers, and the fears he struck in the hearts of everyone at school. And because he doesn't understand I don't think there's really any remorse.
At least Wednesday was a quiet day with no reported dramas or mutinies.