To all the school bus drivers out there…you have NO IDEA what you really mean to us.
I ask you…what parent isn’t positively delighted when their precious offspring finally hoist their heavy (back-breaking!) backpacks, laden with a million dollars’ worth of school supplies, and obediently march to the bus stop to climb aboard a big, yellow school bus for their first day of school? I wasn’t tearful. Nor did I mournfully wave goodbye. I celebrated instead! I did an all-out, semi-choreographed, no holds barred happy dance back up the driveway! I was looking forward to a whole cup of coffee and a little magazine time. Some quiet time! A clean house. A real shower – one with special soaps and scrubs and extra time for conditioner — not one of those two minute jobs where you scramble out, wet and un-rinsed, after hearing the clamoring, crashes and screeches of your little angels trying to aggressively kill one another. In fact, I did the same happy dance, (complete with a lengthy air guitar riff), every day throughout the entire month of September until the one fateful, stomach-turning moment when I was caught by the UPS guy. As the big yellow bus sputtered away, I caught a glimpse of my son suspiciously squinting at my antics through the window, his growing doubts about my unhappiness over his absence apparent. I was completing a short series of back handsprings, nailing the double back-flip landing, when I suddenly and awkwardly locked eyes with the man in brown as his truck careened into my driveway. Needless to say I scurried into the house, flushed and clammy, only to have to answer the door moments later and sign for the package.
Yes, we traded looks — mine one of embarrassment, his unfazed – he had clearly seen this sort of thing before. I understood through his knowing nod and slow blink that my secret was safe with him — apparently what happens in the driveway, stays in the driveway. And though I felt I could trust this nice man, the incident promptly ended my euphoric revelry. But, in order to keep it real, I must fully admit that when what I dubbed “The Yellow Bus of Salvation” rolled around the corner, I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. I couldn’t wait to get my kids on that bus. Should I have felt guilty? Was I a terrible parent? Let’s discuss…
Prior to the yellow bus, my life was a constant flow of wiped bums and noses, and the incessant scrubbing of spill after spill. I had picked up hundreds (perhaps millions?) of books, blocks, Legos, bits and pieces of plastic from who knows where and put them back into respective boxes and bins, on shelves and into closets. I had wrestled a child to the floor and held him down in order to cut his toenails. I had disinfected, bleached and “Lysoled” my way through many a Connecticut winter. I did random “tick checks” in all their little cracks and crevices through many a Connecticut summer. I had countless, endless, sleepless nights worrying about what I said and how I said it — what I did and how I did it. When it comes to your children and conflict, you second guess and you worry your way through every mishap. A parent’s life is an absolute roller coaster of emotions. One minute you feel like you should be at the podium, accepting the Parent of the Year award for coming up with the BEST possible bed time routine, and the next you’re keeping a box of wine cold in the fridge and making frequent trips to the kitchen (I recall using a Sippy cup to avoid spills).
I made shaved ice snow-cones (an absolute disaster – the green remnants of that little Martha Stewart experiment are still evident inside my freezer door) and homemade stuffed animals out of felt, goo-goo eyes and yarn. These activities created the gateway to the inevitable batch of home-made Play-Doh (a recipe my mother had in the 70s). I kept it on top of the fridge in a Tupperware container (my mother’s, from the 70’s, with the burp top). “Eeeww, mom, this stuff isn’t as good as REAL Play-Doh… why is it gray? Why are there bumps in it? It’s so gross!” Sounds fun, right?
With broken Crayola’s and sore fingers, I colored countless flowers, animals, and goofy cartoon characters — you name it, I colored it, and I colored it well. I sat on the floor and played “power ranger castle” for hours on end – to the point where both legs fell asleep and I had to drag my body across the carpet like soldier just to answer the phone. I wrenched my back building forts out of chairs and couch cushions. I read and read and read story upon story upon story. I kissed and bandaged many a thump, bump, and boo-boo. I bravely endured sharp looks of disdain when my 2-year-old suddenly became possessed by Satan in the middle of the cereal aisle and pitched a back-arching, foot-pounding, venom-spewing tantrum. I held a baby in the bathroom with the shower running at 2 AM, with a cough so vile and LOUD that in the end, I was the one who needed holding. I rushed a child to the hospital in sheer panic, and I calmly suffered the bruising incurred from the death-grip hold my daughter used to ward off the pain and fear of those evil, routine shots at the doctor’s office.
I spanked both children once. The first one got spanked when he didn’t listen and ran away from me across a busy intersection. The second got spanked because she wouldn’t take her medicine. Seriously, I spanked my child because she wouldn’t take her pink Amoxicillin for her ear infection. Though brief, the second spanking was a terrible moment in family history, and I truly regret it. I should have been more patient, more loving and more tender with that sick child, but instead I was harried, and annoyed, and a basically just a complete jerk. I also once yelled at both of them for laughing. For laughing. Not proud.
I’ve fed, clothed, and washed. I’ve repeated that sequence, backwards and in high heels. I drove my “littles” everywhere just to ensure that their early years were properly enriched -to be absolutely certain they would have some meaningful “mommy and me” time. There were art classes (I still have the dried bean and macaroni “family” my daughter made when she was 3 and the tissue paper sunflowers my son made at 4). There were swimming lessons (I swear that woman just about let my daughter drown), martial arts and other countless organized gym classes (this one time…I got stuck in the sponge pit for about an hour…and they needed three “helpers” and a whole “hoisting system” with a harness to get me out). There were the free library story times and the endless play dates with the biters and pickers from pre-school. All done happily, for the most part.
In a nutshell, when I talk about The Yellow Bus of Salvation, what I’m really talking about is FREEDOM. Cue the Patriotic music. As you well know, I can be a bit dramatic, but that’s what it is, plain and simple. I chose to stay home with my kids. It was a choice I don’t regret. It was super difficult most of the time – and it was just as difficult as it would have been to go back to work and drop them off at day care. Both scenarios are equally difficult, so don’t go pitching any fits. But, for the stay at home parent, the big yellow school bus symbolizes Freedom for sure – if only for a few short hours. And though I inevitably started missing my children half way through the morning, it was good for us all. They got to do their shit, and I got to do mine and we were all better for it. When they climb aboard that bus, it’s okay to be a little nostalgic, but it’s also okay to be completely relieved and happy. It’s probably not okay to do a weird happy dance all the way back into the house, but…the happiness I speak of is akin to savoring the most delicious champagne at the best party in town, and the best parties usually have great music. I love my children with the fierceness of a lioness, and I would throw myself in front of a bus for them. For those individuals who bravely drive a bus, one big YELLOW BUS OF SALVATION in particular, I am simply voicing my gratitude. As you carry away our precious offspring, you are delivering something special as well: Freedom to the masses of parents who just can’t take it anymore.
Seriously, thank you. Please…don’t be late.