When I was a child, we didn’t have a school rule requiring parents to designate student emergency contacts. If our parents weren’t available to pick us up from school, we simply waited in the nurse’s office until they were.
I once waited the entire day. By the time my mom finally showed up, my stomach flu had passed.
Then there was the time I fell off the swing, landed in a mud puddle the size of Georgia, and resurfaced looking like the Swamp Thing.
I was sent to the nurse who rummaged through the lost and found, handed me a change of clothes stripped off a scarecrow, and sent me back to my 6th grade class looking like a street urchin.
What did she care if the entire school teased me? That time period predated anti-bullying legislation, when PTSD stood for Pick on The Stupid Dork.
Nowadays, there are no kids left behind because schools are more sensitive to our children’s needs. The nurse requires that we provide three emergency contacts, which she exhausts before she calls in the SWAT team.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t even need to rely on anyone because I typically work from home. Once a month, however, I allow myself a little indulgence.
I attend a movie club with friends where, at show time, we put aside work, laundry, and Facebook to enjoy a movie in the middle of the day while our kids attend Anti-Bulling assemblies.
Invariably, the minute the lights dim the nurse calls my cell phone requesting I pick up my sick child from school.
I have since learned to preempt this situation by keeping my kids home from school. On movie day, I call the school first thing in the morning and leave a message on the absentee line that goes something like this: “Elizabeth will be absent from school today due to a stomach ache which she will be experiencing at 11:20 a.m.”
Choosing an emergency contact person for your child is similar to choosing a guardian. You look for traits such as maturity, responsibility, and someone with a pulse.
This year, after an intense decision making process that involved careful research, serious deliberation, and a game of rock, paper, scissors, I selected my top two contacts. The first choice seemed obvious to me. My husband, on the other hand, expressed dismay that he fell second to Supernanny.
I struggled, however, with my final contact. My first consideration was Aunt Jo. She means well, but when called upon last year, picked up the wrong kid.
Then there was my friend Joan whose character is flawless but whose irritable bowel is relentless. She might be reliable, but her colon isn’t.
I considered my friend Betsy, but she gets on my nerves, always trying to one-up me. When I told her that my youngest daughter got the chicken pox, she bragged that her son had the German measles. When I swore off meat, she swore off men.
I finally decided to overlook Betsy’s annoying one-upmanship and call her.
“Betsy, I hope it’s okay. I listed you as an emergency contact for my kids’ schools.”
“No problem. I hope it’s okay that I listed you too . . . as a kidney donor.”
Lesson learned: Choosing the right emergency contacts for your child means no kidneys left behind.
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