Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bus Stop

For the past few weeks, I've been watching the same sad drama unfold outside my living room window every morning at about 8:30 AM. It's not that I sit and wait for it; I'm already in my big armchair, reading the newspaper and having my second cup of coffee. Or, if Piper has decided it's Time, I'm having a Snuggle with a huge orange marmalade cat, rendering any movement at all completely impossible. (More than once, I've mistakenly played an Unintentional Word in Words With Friends; it doesn't always work out advantageously.)

But I digress.

At 8:30 in the morning on Mondays through Fridays, a school bus pulls up to the house two doors down, and the sound of a child crying and wailing begins. Soon, a little boy of about six appears, backpack on his back. Sometimes his mother carries him; other times he slowly walks, rubbing his eyes or his head with one hand while holding his mom's hand with the other. It's crying only--no words, no complaints--just a steady bawling which reaches a higher pitch as soon as the doors whoosh open. Each day, the little boy and his mom have been greeted by a cheery, merry bus aide. She calls out his name--it sounds like it might be Charlie? Marty? Barney?--and asks how he's doing. Is he ready for school today? She carefully takes his hand and helps him to walk up the steps to the bus. She won't carry him; he has to walk himself. The doors close, and the bus lumbers away.

The first time this drama unfolded, I initially focused on the little one, naturally. My heart broke for him. He clutched at his mother; he looked so tiny and his backpack looked so large. He's so afraid! I thought. And he has to go on that big huge bus! That poor baby. What if he cries the whole way there? What if someone is mean to him? Then I looked at his mother, who lingered at the end of the driveway, watching and waving, then standing there, hands clasped at her chest. How awful for her! To know that her baby is so sad and so upset, and to be unable to do anything but watch. I remembered my own guilt: I couldn't take my own kids to school on their first day because it was always the first day of school for me, too. I would always spend odd moments of the day wondering. So much of raising children is Heartbreak!

In the ensuing days, the tears have not subsided when the bus comes. Each day, the mother brings the little boy to the bus, still crying. The bubbly aide tries her hardest to jolly him up, but nothing has worked thus far. "He's a little crabby today," said the mother yesterday through the wailing. I wondered why she bothered to say anything. Maybe, though, he does stop crying on the bus at some point. Certainly he would at school. I'm not entirely certain, however; today as I was gathering my mail, the bus dropped him off. He was crying.

All of this is in stark contrast to the other little boy three doors down from me the other way who used to get picked up by a van for his school. A happy-go-lucky sort of kid, he was very hyperactive and didn't seem to have any sort of concerns about going off to school at all. As a matter of fact, one morning as he was leaving, he yelled loudly, "So long, suckas!"

A performance that was never, at least to my knowledge, repeated.



  1. Maya had that kind of issue with transition of any kind. Ted would take her to school, and she would cry. Sometimes she would throw up in the morning when he told her it was time to go. She would hide behind him, grabbing his shirt and shoved into the back of his legs or butt. Poor kid. This lasted for years. It was the same when we would drop her at her Grandma's house for the day. She just hated the transitions. She still does, though she doesn't try to shove herself into our butts or anything anymore. Poor kid.

    Anyway, I suspect that if she had to ride a bus to school every day, she would be crying like that, every day. And gosh, it did suck for us, her parents, to see her so unhappy with it all.

  2. I hope this angst passes for this young fellow, both for his sake and for his mom's. Seeing someone cry and be so upset like that is heart wrenching. You just want to do anything you can to make it stop/to fix the problem.

  3. Poor little guy! I'm wondering if it isn't so much the bus ride, but what is waiting for him at the other end. Otherwise, why would he not be happy to come home?

    I am fascinated by stories of children who go to school by bus. For the most part, we don't do that here in Southern California. You actually have to pay extra for your child to be bussed, so nobody really does it. Which of course creates nightmare gridlock at the schools during drop off and pick up time.

  4. Gina--Bussing here is a real hot-button issue all the time. Whether or not your child is bussed depends upon how far you live away from school, which school your child goes to (dependent upon special needs/services in some cases), and whether or not your child is ambulatory. In this case, the child is picked up right at home, which means he is a special needs student, possibly autistic or with a developmental or behavioral qualification of some kind.

    His crying is certainly a mystery, but it may not be sadness or fear. It might be something entirely different, I guess. This is out of my expertise.

    Shirley--The mom is a real trouper. She looks less and less tragic each morning, pausing for less time at the side of the bus. She follows the aide and her son down the windows, waving at him as he is placed in his seat, then goes back inside. I'm wondering if J, above, isn't on to something.'m thinking you might be right since he cries when he comes home, too. It might be a sort of stress reaction/reliever. Transitioning is so difficult for so many kids, and even grownups. Some kids just have to release that tension, and crying is one way to do it.

    How did you and Ted (and Maya) ever, ever manage? It sounds like a hard time for everyone.

  5. Nance, we managed the same way all parents do with whatever issue they are going through...we hoped it would pass some day. And for the most part, it has. Though she is still a person who needs a certain degree of regularity, and does not always respond well to transition and change.

  6. Poor little guy. Poor Mama. As much as it kills me to watch my kids grow up and leave the nest, there are some things about being the parent of young kids that I do. not.miss. #1's best friend across the street from toddlerhood thru 2nd grade was on the autism spectrum, and transitions were always rough for all of us. I remember every time Dylan had to leave our house after a playdate, he would be inconsolable - until we figured out that, if he could take something with him (a truck, a sword, something to hold onto) when he went, it made the whole process so much easier. His mum would bring it back later and it was a good lesson in compassion and understanding for #1 - pretty hard to watch another kid take one of your toys home every time he comes to play, but he eventually 'got' why it was done, and even helped him pick out things to take later on. I should add that Dylan is now 21, has a job, and just got his driver's license - wish we could have seen into the future when he was having some of those meltdowns in the early years - it would have been such an encouragement! ; )

  7. MsCaroline--I'm with you. Tons of things I do NOT miss about Mommyhood, and the tears and school heartbreak are biggies.

    Now that both you and Julie have spoken about transition difficulties, I am remembering my eldest, Jared's, own problems with that issue. He loved going and playing with his cousins, but when it was time to go home, he often got so sad that he got angry, and he would always state, "I'm never, ever coming back here again because I always have to leave!" It was so tragic and so heartfelt, and all of us grownups had to work so hard to stifle our smiles and chuckles.

    Your son did learn valuable lessons in compassion and tolerance and generosity by befriending Dylan. He also learned a lot about the fleeting value of material things in comparison to friendship and love. Kudos to you for sticking with it all during the meltdowns and being patient enough to encourage the relationship.

    J@jj--Isn't that the way? I look back at some of the stuff Rick and I did early on as working parents with two littles, and I marvel at our nimbleness, fortitude, and skill. How in the hell did we do all of that, and all at once? HOW HOW HOW??????!!!!!

    And live to tell the tale?

    Jared is also, like Maya, not good with change. He will gladly tell anyone that. He is a lot like Holden Caulfield who says that you should be able to put things you love in those glass cases so that they stay the same forever. He adores family traditions and ritual. Heaven forbid I ever dare to put their Christmas presents under the tree earlier than Christmas morning. Or have an artificial tree. Or ... anything different in any way. "Mom. Why are you doing that? That's...broken. Stop it immediately." He's like a Keeper Of The Flame.

  8. Amen. God forbid I decide to make homemade waffles for Christmas morning, now that I'm sleeping later than she does. NO, she wants the cinnamon rolls from a can that we started making when she was maybe 2 and we were sleep deprived. Sigh.

    As to how we did it, we just had to, and also, we were YOUNGER with more energy. I look at grandparents who are very involved with raising their grandkids, and I think, "HOW?"

  9. Ah, well, the special needs things says it all. My daughter is eligible for this, too. I choose not to have her take the bus because it would just take too long for her to get there and back. Even though it is only a ten minute drive to the school, it would probably turn into a forty minute one because they would probably pick up another child.

    If the child has developmental issues, then yes, it may not go away for a while. Poor mom! As a fellow mother of a special needs child, there is a certain horrible mixture of regret and yet relief when you send your child off to school that I know all too well.

  10. I really feel for the little guy, and all the people in his life trying to make it better. I so hope that once he gets to school his day levels out & he's able to learn & make friends.

    I rode a bus for 6 years - middle school through high school. Yes, I was a high school senior. Riding a bus. Driven by another high school senior. From what I hear, times have changed. Yes?

  11. So sad! I hope he's been having an easier time lately.

  12. Lisa--It varies, but usually, he is crying when I've noticed. One day, his mom had to take him all the way onto the bus.

    Bug--You know, I have no idea how bus riding goes for older kids, except that some kids who go to the county vocational school do get on the bus for it. I was always a walker. We lived within 5 or 6 blocks of the schools we attended.

    Gina--The busrides that some kids take are well over an hour and then some. Especially for special needs kids, for whom the bus stops at each private home. A great convenience to the parents, but it must feel interminable for the kiddles.


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