I see you rollin’. And I am flipping the heck out. I think it’s time for me to explain a few things to you.
Getting my children ready for school has turned out to be one of the most stressful events of my adult life. And it is something that I, and thousands of other parents, must do every single day.
It’s too much pressure. I can’t do this. I am only one woman.
My children hover between two extremes when getting ready for school in the morning: They’re either not in the mood to be particularly cooperative, and are eating their breakfast one leisurely bite of cereal at a time. Or they’re actually pretty cool about the whole “being on time” thing, and no one melts down because their socks feel funny in their shoes. And even then, it’s still stressful because there is always this lingering fear that you are going to arrive early.
We moms know that even when we have everything seemingly under control, life likes to throw us curveballs — like pink eye, forgotten science projects, Caillou, or the bus arriving four minutes earlier than planned. When you are ahead of schedule, you might be having an especially good day because for you, it’s a good thing to be early.
But for me — she who is always herding unenthusiastic children from one place to another — it sends me into an emotional tailspin. It makes me question everything about myself, like what I’m even doing with my life.
I can see all of the parents telling their wee children now, “Eat your vegetables, kids, or you’ll turn out like Ashley. Your future kids will miss the bus, and then you’ll be in the front yard, crying and ripping chunks of grass out of the ground with your bare hands.”
It’s actually the scariest story ever.
I have been the mom who had to run across her lawn, waving her arms psychotically at the bus, begging the driver “Wait a minute, please, for the love of all that is holy, wait!” And I regretted every step I took.
While I know I should be embarrassed for myself, please know that deep down, my condition of having perpetual school bus-related anxiety is hereditary. Do you know who my mother used to be?
When my sisters and I would miss the bus, my mother would have rather grown a third arm covered in boils than drive the two of us “all the way” into town for school. Do you know what she did instead?
She drove like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights behind the bus while honking her horn and flashing her headlights — my mother, wearing the “I’m not crabby” nightgown with a giant blue crab on the front and a head full of wild bedhead. (I don’t blame her for this. She was pushed to the brink. This is what managing a bus schedule for multiple children does to people. I see that. Now.) Then my mother would stop the car and make us get out and run up to the bus to get on at the next stop.
Sometimes, our frowning bus driver saw us, took pity, and politely waited. Other times, she didn’t see us (or at least she pretended that she didn’t) and she’d start to drive off, even though my sister and I were almost to the door.
And so, we did this majestic dance up and down the quiet backroads of my small town. Each time, I wished a little bit harder than the last that I would just melt into the tar-chipped pavement, leaving only my Jansport backpack and Lisa Frank folders behind.
I’m still traumatized.
I’m worried that I am going to be that parent. I’m already showing symptoms. I’ve already had to stick my head out the door and wave a finger at you, pleading and mouthing for you to wait “just one minute, please.” There was another time when my dog darted between my legs and out the front door and got on the bus while I ran screaming after her.
I’ve considered just firing flares into the air to signal “Mayday! My daughter had to change her pants because the button felt funny.”
I used to not be this person, bus driver. When I worked full-time, I was dressed by 7:45 a.m. This means I had on a bra before 8 a.m. I was showered. I was so many things.
Now? On a good day, my morning routine literally amounts to me opening the front door, kissing little foreheads, and then shoving my kids out while hoping for the best. I silently pray to the Gods of transportation that nothing happens, that no kid takes a tumble or spills their lunchbox — because then I would have to emerge wide-eyed and wild-haired from my house, wearing ratty fleece pajama pants that someone gave me for Christmas seven years ago, to scrape peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (and my dignity) off the front lawn.
And it wouldn’t be just you who saw me. There is always a line of cars stopped in front of and behind the bus, full of unsuspecting people. People who are my neighbors. People who have eyeballs and camera phones.
This is the parenting walk of shame.
I am so much more than this. And I know you just work here. And you want to go home because you deal with other people’s small children all day long.
But if you could just keep these things in the back of your mind when you’re blaring your horn because we aren’t outside yet, that would be great. In fact, please be extra sweet to my children, because the odds are stacked against them.
I’m baring my soul to you, bus driver, every morning.
Don’t be weird about it.