A few weeks ago I mentioned that Junior will be starting kindergarten this fall. I also mentioned that I went to a Mulletville Lite Kindergarten Q&A session and that I thought some of the questions parents posed were absurd.
Questions like, "“Can I meet the bus driver before the first day of school? How do I know he/she will like my kid?" and "Can I follow the bus to school to make sure my child gets out all right and/or gets home okay?”
As I listened to the parents ask those questions, an image came to mind: one of a convoy of moms and dads tailgating a school bus, hissing "Left! Turn left!" at each other, and peering at the bus through binoculars; it made me laugh out loud, in a sad kind of way.
It also made me wonder about the message it sends to our children. What does a kindergartner's thought process sound like as he/she looks out the bus window? Why does Mommy need to follow the bus? Am I not safe? Is this separation a bad thing? Should I be worried about going to school? Yes! I should be! Get me out of here!
The whole scenario unnerves me.
School systems employ professionals who are trained to make sure a child gets from Point A to Point B, right? The worried parents at the Q&A session struck me as paranoid—Helicopter Parents at their worst.
I said as much to a mother I met at the library yesterday. I poked fun of, and laughed about, the moronic insecurity of parents who clearly can't let go of their children. Superior? Who, me?
After I was done, she smiled tersely and said, "I'm one of those mothers." She looked at me as if to say Anything else? I didn't know what to do so I smiled back—so sheepishly you could have sheared me—and shrugged my shoulders.
Later that day I took the kids for a haircut. As I was waiting, I relayed my library experience to the hairdresser. The story included my bountiful judgment of neurotic parents, the library mother's response and, subsequently, my oops moment.
"It happened to me," she said. "The bus driver let my kindergartner get off at a daycare two stops before my house. It took me hours to find him. I wanted to die."
Still later that day, I ran into one of Junior's friends and his grandmother in the grocery store. We parked our carts by the yogurt and shot the shit for awhile. (I don't remember talking this much when I was on maternity leave. Suddenly everyone wants to talk.) I relayed the library experience and the hairdresser experience. Again, the
story included my bountiful judgment of neurotic parents, the library
mother's response, the hairdresser's response and, subsequently, my oops moment(s).
I stood back and waited for her to tell me that the world has gone crazy. That us parents have turned into freakish worrywarts who can't let our kids reach the end of the driveway without popping a blood vessel. I wanted her to tell me it was unnecessary. I wanted her to tell me my disbelief was justified.
Instead she said, "It happened to me. My kid was meek. She sat in the back of the bus and missed her stop. The bus driver didn't realize it until they got back to the bus yard. She was so scared she couldn't speak. It was a nightmare."
At that point I didn't think oooooooops. I thought, what the fuck? Either bus-related incidents are criminally common or I had happened upon all two incidences in one day. And if those instances really are rare, we parents have done each other an injustice in over-hyping them, much like we do when sharing our labor stories with expectant mothers.
"My doctor had to stand on my chest and pull my baby out with a chair...and that was after I had 50 epidurals."
Damn tall tales. I bet Johnny Appleseed's mom didn't follow his bus. Course, he did leave that big ass trail of trees. Maybe we should send off our children with seed packets?
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