This is not a story about a climbing expedition gone wrong or hiking or skiing. It's about bad mothering.
Because if I was a good mother, I wouldn't have lost Caroline for two hours. Maybe.
If I was a good mother (read organized, interested in my children's educational progress, less willing to spend a whole day reading Let's Pretend This Never Happened alternating with Stephen King's autobiography- which oddly complement each other kinda like caramel and chocolate or better, vodka and cranberry juice, had a clean house, and made better dinners), I would not have lost her.
That is true. Well, it might be true.
But because I have certain shortcomings, I failed to sign up for parent teacher conferences. On purpose. I went last year. The teachers and I have slightly different views on progress. From my point of view, she has friends, good stories at the end of the day, not too much homework, and a backpack that resembles a homeless person's shopping cart.
I think she's in good shape (if we ignore the backpack). Besides, she reads-for pleasure. I think that's pretty good.
Sadly, Caroline expected me to be at conferences even though I reminded her she had a singing lesson after school (three kids three different directions in three different activities on a Friday after school, plus an invitation to two parent teacher conferences- gets complicated).
I waited. She waited. We waited and waited and waited. Her at the top and me at the bottom.
I was well aware of where she was just unsure how to capture her. If I go up, she may be coming down. Then we've just reversed positions. Could go on all night. I wasn't completely panicked yet.
I had to time my drive up. As soon as a funicular came down, I had 21 minutes to drive up AND find her.
In the pitch black. On a winding mountain road without guard rails. I must really love her.
I park. Check the dark fields. No kids. Go to the funicular station. She's not there. 9 minutes left. Now, I'm feeling panicked. The mountain is big. And dark. And there are people up there. Good people. Bad people. And she's 9 but looks 6. There are also a bunch of people in formal wear. Turns out there's a wedding reception up there.
Go to the dining hall. There! She sees me. She's a bit disheveled- but she always looks a bit disheveled when she gets home from school. Both of us melt down a bit. She puts her feverish little hand in mine and I walk her to the car.
Then I bought her an entire pizza. Then I called the principal. We sorted it out. I passed along pointers that I thought might be helpful when dealing with unaccompanied minors. Like call her mother.
I realized I could have handled things differently. Like I could have gone to the conference. And made sure her cell phone was charged. Although giving her a cell phone reminds me of giving tennis balls to a Border Collie we used to have or Tupperware to my father. I never expect to get either back.
I could also tattoo my cell number on her body but then I guess I have to get her a new one when we get back to the States and I'm sure there are organizations that frown on tattooing your children even for a good reason.
She can sing an entire library of pop culture songs and Christmas carols in GERMAN but my cell number is still a mystery.
She is totally my daughter.
PS It's not that I don't care about her educational progress but my goal- FOR HER- is to have a happy expat experience and maybe pick up a foreign language along the way. Harping on science test scores is contraindicated. This is hard enough as it is.
Besides, some of us just don't love science. For the record, I loved science. But this isn't about me. Well, the first part is.