Just when you think you’re a seasoned parent, and you have it all figured out, something comes along that totally throws you off balance and reminds you how vulnerable you’ve become since having children.
My kids started school yesterday. My daughter began her senior year of high school, and my son began eighth grade. So, I’ve been doing this for a while. Thirteen times to be exact. I have it down. I know what I’m doing. I haven’t cried on anyone’s first day since my son started middle school. A two-year record!
So imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon when I was in full-blown panic mode at 4:00pm. Here’s what happened.
My son, who’s autistic, takes the bus to school. It’s the proverbial “short bus” with other special needs kids and wonderful drivers who always, always safely get them where they need to be. It’s been a blessing to me, especially as a single parent, to have this invaluable service pick him up and drop him off right at our doorstep the past couple of years. Our bus drivers are wonderful and do so much for the kids in our district.
The first day of school inevitably brings some challenges as the routes get worked out, and the drivers familiarize themselves with the kids. Buses are often a few minutes late that first week, and when kids are getting curbside service at homes (versus neighborhood stops) those times can fluctuate by several minutes.
Being the seasoned parent that I am, I was unconcerned yesterday afternoon when my son’s bus was ten minutes late for the afterschool drop-off. I just continued to sit on my porch, reading about Hurricane Irma and texting with a friend. I was taking some turns on Words With Friends when I glanced at the time and noticed it was 30 minutes after the scheduled drop-off.
Being the seasoned parent that I am, I realized it was time to call the district transportation department and inquire about the bus. Transportation is a special needs parent’s best friend because they always answer, and they always let you know exactly what’s going on with your child’s bus. Except when they don’t.
Being the seasoned parent I am, I left a voicemail when directed to and then promptly proceeded to call right back because at this point, my kid has been out of school for over an hour, and his bus is going on 45 minutes late. I called and called and called. And I got the voicemail message over and over and over.
Being the seasoned parent I am, I decided to call the school to be sure all the buses left after dismissal. I got the school voicemail because the office was already closed.
Being the seasoned parent I am, I remembered that anything can happen to your children at any time, and I started to panic. My hands got clammy, my mouth went dry, my heart was pounding, and all I could think was that my little boy was alone someplace lost. I kept dialing transportation and finally got a real live person on the phone who was attempting to radio the bus driver.
Being the seasoned parent I am, I was about to crawl out of my skin listening to the hold music because it was now a full hour since my child was supposed to be home. I was about to puke. I was imagining losing my mind because some horrible fate had befallen him and wondering how my daughter would then manage with her mother in the looney bin.
It was right at that moment, the bus pulled up, and I almost started crying. My son got off of that little yellow bus with a smile on his face, singing some Kelly Clarkson song, as the driver explained what happened and apologized profusely.
As I turned away to follow my very much alive and safe little boy into the house, I remembered that since the moment they were born, my children have been my number one joy AND worry. Even though they’re getting older and more independent, they will always be my babies.
And I’ll never be as seasoned as I think I am.