In the kindergarten line

We have a “walk pool” in our neighborhood, where the parents trade off who walks the kids to school. This morning, it was my turn.

I’m not sure if there’s a way to keep three kindergartners from running. If anyone knows any tactics, let me know. This morning, my kid and one of the neighbor kids, who I’ll call Timmy, called out “smush!”  and then took turns ramming each other. The blows were, thankfully, blunted by their comically enormous backpacks. While Bini and Timmy smushed, I walked with the little girl from the neighborhood, who I’ll call Nora. I like Nora. Her default facial expression is a split-your-face-happy smile, and she tells long, convoluted stories. This morning, I was listening to Nora and occasionally yelling out “Bini! Timmy! Slow down!”

Nora was telling me about how her brother had broken his arm. When she was finished, I told her about how Steve had torn the webbing between two toes, and had to get stitches. One of the moms overheard. “What a nice story, first thing in the morning,” she said.

Once we got to school, Timmy and Bini ran through the front doors and into the back playground area, where all three full-day kindergarten classes line up in front of a ramp. I love seeing the sea of little kid heads and the handful of parents, like me, clutching reusable coffee mugs and trying not to make eye contact.

This morning, I was trying to keep Bini and Nora (who are in the same class) from smushing each other in line when one of the kids, named Asijia, tapped me on the elbow.

“Excuse me, but this boy wants his mommy.” She pointed to a little boy standing in front of Bini, sniffling. Occasionally, he’d get rammed by Bini and Nora’s smushing.

I knelt down and looked at him. His nose was running and his eyes, behind his glasses, were wet. “What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“I want my mom,” he said, voice quavering.

“What’s your name?”

“Siddharth,” he told me.

“He doesn’t want to be at kindergarten,” said a tall girl, dressed in all pink. “I didn’t want to have full-day kindergarten either, but my mommy said I had to, and it’s fine.”

“What’s your name?” I asked her.

“Audrey.” She smiled, a gap-toothed grin.

“Siddharth, are you not feeling well?” I asked.

“I was in my mom’s car and I said I didn’t want to go, and she said to go, and I got out and now I want my mom,” he said.

That did sound rough. “You know what, though? Today’s a half day. You get out early. Can you hang in there?” Siddarth turned away, considering.

Audrey put a protective hand on Siddharth’s shoulder. Asijia moved in, too. “We’ll help you, Siddharth. We’ll be your friends.”

“That’s really nice, you guys. Can you tell Mrs. Bailie that Siddharth is having a hard time this morning?” The girls nodded vigorously.

Meantime, my child and Nora, who Bini insists isn’t his friend, were giggling and roughhousing. But when the bell rang, and the class marched forward toward their teacher, Bini fell out of line and grabbed my arm.

“Why were you talking to Siddharth?” he demanded.

“Because he was sad, honey. When someone’s sad, it’s nice to try and cheer them up.”

Bini shook his head. “No. That’s not your job. You’re my mom.” And with that, he swept into the classroom.

Being room mother should be fun.