As Alexa entered the kindergarten classroom, she was met with a rush of sights, smells and sounds that instantly made her feel, well, like a little kid. A large playmat resided in the middle of the room, adorned with the letters of the alphabet and cartoonish depictions of animals. Several rows of individual cubbies, each with a name written below lined the wall opposite a shelf containing several books and games. The odor of glue and construction paper wafted around her as her ears were greeted by the energetic cacophony of children at play.
Unlike her arrival at Miss Shaw’s second-grade classroom, Alexa’s arrival at Miss Vaughn’s kindergarten class was hardly even noticed by the children in attendance. Nurse Rebecca led Alexa to Miss Vaughn, who was busy preparing little cups of cookies and setting them alongside juice boxes in preparation for snack time.
“Rebecca! What brings you here?” she asked upon seeing the school nurse.
“I think I have one of your students, Kaylen” she explained. “She’s had a rough day so far. She got lost and ended up in Ericka’s class and ended up having an accident in her panties……” Rebecca explained. Alexa’s face blushed hotly as Rebecca recounted her embarrassing episode to the kindergarten teacher. “Which reminds me…….” Rebecca added, drawing closer to Miss Vaughn and slightly lowering her voice. “I put her in Pull-Ups, just in case she has another accident. She should be able to tell you if she has to go potty, but it might help to ask her a few times today, just to be on the safe side.
“Ohhhhh, I see. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll make sure to check with her after snack time before we head out to the playground” Miss Vaughn replied. “I’ll get her started with an activity center, thanks for dropping her off!” Rebecca crouched down beside Alexa, rubbing the side of her arm gently. “Ok, Alexa. Have fun today, ok? Remember, if you have to go potty tell Miss Vaughn, sweetheart.” Alexa nodded her head, then turned her attention to Miss Vaughn who beckoned for her to come to one of the activity areas. Alexa joined with a group of children who were each working on their own connect-the-dot sheets. “Why don’t you work on this until snack time, Alexa?” she suggested, handing Alexa her own sheet and a crayon.
Alexa took the crayon and began to work on the sheet. As she began to connect the dots on her paper, something about the image seemed vaguely familiar to her. It reminded her of something. Hadn’t she seen something that looked like this recently? Yes, she was sure that she had! But when? When she tried to remember, it was like walking into a rubber wall. She knew something was on the other side, but each time she tried to run through it she was bounced back to the present moment. It was as if something was inside her head, keeping her from thinking about it too much.
There was also the nagging feeling that she used to be adept at things she was now struggling to do. Drawing a line from one dot to the other wasn’t quite as simple as she had expected it to be, as evidenced by several of her lines which were less than straight. She also struggled at times to decide which dots needed to be connected to others. As Alexa struggled through her worksheet, Miss Vaughn announced that it was snack time. The children all dropped their crayons and raced over to the Miss Vaughn, who distributed a small plastic cup filled with miniature chocolate chip cookies along with a juice box to each student. Alexa got up and got in line with the other children. As she stood in line waiting, her stomach growled. Alexa hadn’t realized just how hungry and thirsty she was. Upon receiving her cookies and juice, Alexa returned to the activity table and greedily wolfed down her cookies. As she sipped aggressively from her juice box, a little girl approached her, bouncing about more than walking. “I’m Madeline!” she said, introducing herself. “I haven’t seen you before!”
“Today’s my fuhst day here…….I think?” Alexa replied, not sure if what she was telling Madeline was actually true or not. Madeline smiled, taking a seat next to Alexa and taking a sip from her juice box.
“Um, so I don’t know if you know but we get to pick our recess buddy each day…..” she said, taking another sip from her juice box. “Do you want to be my recess buddy today?” Alexa smiled back. The thought of having a playmate at recess sounded wonderful, especially after the embarrassing day she’d had.
“Yea, I’ll be your buddy!” she replied enthusiastically, smiling. Madeline smiled, taking Alexa by the hand and holding it up. “Miss Vaughn! Miss Vaughn! Alexa is gonna be my recess buddy today!” she shouted.
“Ok, Madeline! You and Alexa can be recess buddies today! Why don’t you go grab a few toys from the Recess Chest, Madeline?” Miss Vaughn suggested as she began handing out napkins for the children to clean their faces with. Madeline clapped her hands in excitement, then made her way to the Recess Chest. After rummaging around for a bit, she returned to Alexa holding two pails, each with its own shovel. “We can play in the sandbox today!”
Alexa took her pail and shovel in hand enthusiastically. “We can be arka……..arko…….Miss Vaughnnnnnn? Who digs up dinosaurs?” she asked, frustrated by her inability to remember the big word.
“Arch-ae-olo-gists, Alexa” Miss Vaughn replied, slowly and carefully pronouncing the word. “That’s quite a big word for a little girl to know! Are you sure you belong in Kindergarten, Alexa?” she asked.
Alexa beamed with pride, too young to understand that she was being patronized. After being humiliated for not knowing how to read or do math problems, it felt wonderful to hear Miss Vaughn suggest that perhaps Alexa really didn’t belong in kindergarten. Maybe it was all a mistake! Maybe she really did belong in a higher grade! Of course, she was wearing a Pull-Up, but that was just because Miss Shaw didn’t let her go to the bathroom quickly enough. “Maybe if I keep showing Miss Vaughn how smart I am, I can be with the big kids again!” she thought to herself as she finished the last of her juice box.
After walking around the room and collecting everyone’s empty cups and juice boxes, Miss Vaughn lined her students up in front of the door and proceeded to march them outside to the school’s playground. As they marched through the hall, Miss Vaughn stopped in front of the bathroom. “Now, before we go out to play, does anybody need to use the potty first?” she asked. Alexa couldn’t help but feel as if Miss Vaughn’s question was directed at her and her alone. “Anybody? Matthew? Madeline? Alexa?” she asked again. Alexa shook her head “no”, along with the rest of the class.
“Ok, then…….” Miss Vaughn continued, staring right at Alexa. “……..but if any of you have to go, come to me and I’ll take you to the potty, ok?”
This elicited a unitary response of “Yesssss Miss Vaughnnnnnnn” as the children impatiently fidgeted, anxious to begin recess.
With that, Miss Vaughn brought her students outside to the playground. As the students scampered off to various areas of the playground, Madeline grabbed Alexa’s hand and pulled her towards the sandbox. “Let’s go, Alexa! Hurry!” she shouted as Alexa followed behind.
“What are we lookin’ for?” Alexa asked Madeline as she sat down in the miniature desert.
“Ummm……..” Madeline paused. “We’re lookin’ for dinosaur bones! We’re…….what’re those people called again?”
Alexa tried to remember the word Miss Vaughn had used to describe such people, but came up short and decided to improvise. “We’re digging buddies!” she exclaimed. “Yea, digging buddies!” Madeline agreed, smiling in satisfaction.
Alexa and Madeline set up their pails, grabbed their shovels and started digging into the sand, taking each scoop and placing it in their respective pails. When they were done, they emptied them out and started over again. As they started their third round of excavation, Madeline decided she had become bored with playing “digging buddies” and suggested a new game.
“Let’s play tag! You’re it!” Madeline announced, tapping Alexa on the shoulder. Her competitive nature still intact, Alexa tagged Madeline back, then got up to run away from her. Madeline and Alexa traded tags, each touch sparking a new pursuit throughout the playground. Alexa shrieked in delight each time she managed to tag Madeline, giggling as she then turned and bolted in the opposite direction to escape her pursuer.
As she ran from Madeline, Alexa began to feel a familiar urge emanating from her bottom. She paused for a moment, allowing Madeline to catch up.
“What’s wrong, Alexa? You don’t wanna play anymore?” Madeline asked, wondering why her playground buddy had stopped fleeing from her. Alexa felt the urge subside, then turned back to Madeline.
“I think I gotta go potty…….” she said, a look of concern on her face. Madeline’s face became more serious as she appeared to settle down, walking towards Alexa.
“Ok, you can go potty………..……….” Madeline replied, appearing to momentarily pause their little game.
“………but you’ll have to catch me when you come back!” she shouted, tapping Alexa. Alexa shrieked and, in her excitement, forgot all about her bathroom needs as she chased after Madeline. She ran faster and faster, determined to make her playmate “it” again. Alexa closed in, managing to get within a few feet of Madeline. She reached out to tag her and then……
She stopped dead in her tracks, instinctively clenching as tight as she could while placing both of her hands on her bottom as she arched her back upwards. Alexa fought desperately to hold back what her body was trying to expel, eventually regaining control but not before feeling something drop into the seat of her Pull-Up.
“Oh……..oh no………” she uttered in a shocked stammer as she slowly removed her hands from her bottom. Madeline turned around and saw that Alexa had stopped chasing her again. “Come on, Alexa! Come get me!” she shouted from several feet away. This time, Alexa shook her head “no” rapidly, a look of fear on her face as she stood still as a statue. Confused, Madeline ran back to Alexa.
“Hey, I said you’re it!” she repeated, tagging Alexa on the shoulder again. “Don’t you wanna play anymore?” Alexa remained stone-faced and motionless, still attempting to process what she had just done. Fighting back tears, she looked up at Madeline.
“I don’t feel like playin’ anymore…….” She quietly replied. Disappointed, Madeline crossed her arms. “Ugh, fine! You just wanted to quit because I was beating you!” she teased.
“Nuh-uh! I just don’t wanna play anymore!” Alexa argued back, crossing her arms. It was then that Madeline detected the faint odor of what Alexa had done in her Pull-Up. Madeline scrunched her nose, then theatrically pinched it between her thumb and index finger. “Ewwww, you tooted Alexa!” Madeline shouted teasingly.
“I did NOT toot!” Alexa shouted back, blushing hotly as the smell of what she had done in her Pull-Up began to waft around her.
Madeline continued to playfully tease Alexa, unaware of the severity of Alexa’s plight but enjoying the reaction she was able to elicit from her Madeline playfully continued to tease Alexa, whose face was now bright red with embarrassment.
“Alexa toot-ed, Alexa toot-ed!” she playfully teased, retracting and pointing her finger again with each new chant.
A combination of fear, anger and shame began to well up in Alexa as she shouted back at Madeline. “Stop it! STOP IT! Shut up, Madeline! I didn’t TOOT!” she screamed back. Alexa’s commands went unheeded as Madeline continued to tease her.
It was then that Alexa’s anger got the best of her. She took a step forward and pushed Madeline to the ground. Madeline fell down, landing on her bottom. Shocked, she looked up at Alexa, screwed her face and began to cry loudly as several children walked over to watch the unfolding drama.
It wasn’t long before Miss Vaughn arrived, walking through the ring of children who had encircled Alexa and Madeline and helping Madeline up off the ground.
“What is going on here, girls?” Miss Vaughn asked sternly. Madeline sniffled, wiping tears from her eyes and brushing grass off of her skirt. “Alexa PUSHED me!” she accused, pointing at directly at her assailant.
“Alexa? Is that true?” Miss Vaughn asked.
“Yea, but……..but she was makin’ funna me!” Alexa protested.
Miss Vaughn crossed her arms, a stern look coming across her face. “And what could Madeline have said that was so mean that you had to push her for it?”
Alexa began to take a few steps backwards. “She said I……….” Alexa stopped mid-sentence as she suddenly felt the “present” she had deposited in her Pull-Up rubbing against her bottom as she attempted to back away from her teacher. Alexa’s eyes began to tear up as an intense feeling of shame and vulnerability washed over her. “She said I……..I…………”
It was then that Miss Vaughn observed the children standing behind Alexa fanning their noses as Alexa backed up towards them.
Suspicious, Miss Vaughn began to walk towards the retreating child. Alexa’s heart began to race as Miss Vaughn drew closer. She looked up at her teacher, who was now towering over her, hands at her hips. “She said that you what?” she asked, resuming her inquiry.
It was then that Miss Vaughn smelled what Alexa’s classmates had. Without saying a word, she put her hands on Alexa’s shoulders, turned her around and sniffed close to her backside.
Alexa’s face burned red with embarrassment as she realized what Miss Vaughn was doing. Desperate to avoid what she knew was about to take place, she made one last attempt to preserve her modesty.
“Miss Vaughn…….can I………can I go to the potty, please?” she stammered.
“Oh, sweetheart, I think you already did……..” she replied dismissively as she began to unsnap Alexa’s overalls.
Alexa stood still as a statue, mortified as Miss Vaughn removed the snaps from her overalls and let them drop to her feet. A collective gasp rose from the assembled children as they saw their classmate standing before them clad in nothing but a Pull-Up and a t-shirt.
“Alexa’s wearing Pull-Ups!” a voice from the crowd observed.
“I think she pottied in them!” another voice commented.
Alexa was suddenly overcome by the strong urge to suck her thumb, which she began to do as Miss Vaughn pulled the rear of her Pull-Up away from her backside and peered inside. “Oh, sweetie…….” She said, helping Alexa step out of her overalls. “You were supposed to tell me if you had to make potty…….” Miss Vaughn said as she picked Alexa up, carrying her at her hip.
“I don’t think you belong in kindergarten, sweetheart………”