Today will not go down in history as my best Mommy Day ever. In fact, it may become legendary from its badness, though I certainly hope not. Elie will recover, in fact, she already has started to, but my guilt (like most serious MommyGuilt) is not easily assuaged.
I was exceedingly busy today, buzzing from here to there; there was a lot of stuff to get done and not much time to do it. I barely made it home in time to get Isaac off the bus. Then it was back to busy and then off again to pick Talia up.
After I picked up Talia, things were finally slowing down. We stayed at the school to briefly play on the playground and then we headed to the Home Depot to pick up a light bulb or a new light fixture. I wasn't paying attention to the time at all and we took our time in the store. When we got out I realized that I was going to be getting home right when, or very soon after, Elie got off the bus.
Elie and I had talked about what would happen if I wasn't home when she got off the bus. She knows the code to get into the garage door. We talked about her letting herself in, shutting the door and just hanging out until I got home; which I assured her would not be long. So as I was driving home and realizing that I was certainly going to be arriving after her, I was thinking that everything would be fine.
Then I my phone rang. "Is this Elie's mom? I'm L. and M.'s Grandmother. I'm with her here outside your house and she says you aren't home and the door is locked." I assured the grandmother that I was very close to being home (I was literally a mile away) and that Elie knew the code to the garage and could let herself in. When I pulled into the driveway the grandmother was just leaving and H., a fifth-grader from the neighborhood (who is a safety officer at the school and a stand-up kid), was standing outside the garage while Elie stood inside the garage. I said thanks to H. and she headed home.
And then poor Elie burst into tears. "Why weren't you home? The door was locked. I was scared and I didn't know where you were. Why weren't you home????" Oh no. I was not where I should have been, where I was expected, where I would give safety and security and love. I.have.failed.
I was sure that she was going to be alright. She always acts older than her years. She has such a solid head on her. She wants to be in charge and be the boss and do her own thing ALWAYS. She doesn't need me to provide her with input, doesn't want me to tell her what to do or give suggestions or, or, or....
Tonight we talked about it. In depth and at great length. Now she is excited for her chance to come inside by herself and call me on the phone to find out where I am and when I will be home. She is still nervous about me not being home, but she's also excited about doing things all by herself.
As for me, I'll make sure that someone is home to meet her, every single day, no matter what. I feel an incredible amount of guilt about the whole situation. How frivolous of me to not pay attention to what time it is. How ignorant of me to not be able to judge what she can handle and what she can't. She is six, not fifteen or eleven or even eight.
We snuggled for quite a while and then she didn't leave my side for half an hour or so once we got into the house. But after that she was her same old self. And then we were back to clingy when it was time for bed. I just feel so guilty. And I wish I got a do over.