Each morning a grinning, yellow monster rumbles down our street and gobbles up my kids. The first time it happened, the school bus opened its doors and my son tripped up the stairs, his backpack almost as big as he was, and disappeared inside. The doors snapped shut, and the bus rolled away with a creak and a roar.
I stood in the street waving and smiling and felt the oddest mix of horror and elation. I’d just given my son to some random driver I didn’t know because I’ve been conditioned to trust yellow busses, but he could be an orc headed straight to Mordor for all I knew. I wondered if I should call the school to make sure he arrived. And also I started laughing because we did it. We’d raised a tiny human into a schoolboy and he was clean and clothed and off to learn about the world.
I met my friend Julie for lunch, because I could, and she asked if I’d made First Day Cookies, like that was a thing. I didn’t know about First Day Cookies, but I ran home and threw together some First Day Rice Krispie Treats. School mom, working it like a boss.
When I heard the bus lumbering down the street, I took off in a run, thinking I was late, that he’d get off and find no mommy to greet him on his big first day. I ran full out in the Georgia heat in my flip flops, sweat collecting in my armpits and running down my torso.
I got to the bus stop, only to discover it wasn’t his bus, and trotted home, waving sheepishly at the neighbor walking his dog. When the bus finally came, I was there, arms outstretched, and as I gave him a hug, I asked, “Hi, honey, how was your day?”
He started telling me all about it as we worked our way back into the house, and I was a rapt audience listening to this explorer weave tales about a new land. His teacher and classroom and new friends and systems. Tales of P.E. and social studies and how he didn’t have time to finish his snack.
We did this every day as the yellow monster spit him back onto the pavement down our street. “Hi, honey, how was your day?” And sometimes I’d see his smile from the bus and sometimes he’d shake his head and tell me about the mean boys and sometimes he’d grunt and refuse to look at me. And sometimes he’d choke from laughing as he told me something funny that happened.
Tales of adventure in faraway places. He’d step off the bus swinging his backpack and asking for cookies and cucumbers. I’d listen to all of it, sometimes prying it out of him. I learned to ask better questions. “Did anything smell weird today?” “What’s something funny that happened?” “How did you react when your friend did that to you? How could you have handled that differently?”
Yesterday the yellow monster swallowed all three of my kids as they tromped up the stairs, colorful backpacks bobbing in the morning light. Seven hours later I met them in that spot and they spilled out, grinning and all talking at once. “I like my teacher!” “Mommy, I made a new friend!” “We played a fun game!”
It’s weird. This sharing our kids with the world. They learn new things from other people and develop relationships that we’ll never see. They become a part of something apart from us. It’s a little scary…and exhilarating. To offer our children to the world and watch as they make their mark on teachers and classmates. The world will never be the same because they’re in it, interacting with it, falling down, fighting, winning, losing, learning.
This morning I wrote on Facebook, “Day Two of school and I screamed 'I LOVE YOU!!!' at the bus stop as they got on. Best to establish your unabashed enthusiasm right out of the gate. Start strong and let the kids know what to expect on the embarrassment scale so they aren’t blindsided later. They’ll develop a tolerance for this kind of behavior, and eyeball rolling never hurt anyone.”
A friend asked if I was screaming “I LOVE YOU” at my kids or at the bus. Maybe a little of both. Goodbye sweet kiddies. Go live your lives, and I’ll be waiting for you when you return.