I just stalked a school bus.
I know it sounds creepy, but let me explain.
My little Isaiah doesn’t talk much, and he qualified for services through Douglas County Child Find. He is the third of my kids that was delayed in speech. Putting him in his new preschool required a lot of coordination on my part. We had to figure out how to get him to school from the babysitter’s house. He has to be there at 12:30. It’s not the most convenient time in the world.
I wanted to arrange a carpool with another family. The teachers at the school didn’t think this was possible for some reason. (They obviously have never had kids in a charter school where parents share driving duties all the time.) They suggested that instead we arrange transportation through the school district, which involved him riding a bus.
I was not there the first time the bus came to pick him up. Tracie, his babysitter, walked him up to the bus. She said that he was scared to get into the bus. He even told her that he wanted me. (That’s really saying something–Mark is his favorite. The fear must have summoned up a really deeply hidden need for maternal comfort.) She said that he whimpered and a few tears fell down his face as she buckled him in. When I heard about this, I decided to check it out the situation for myself.
That was Thursday. The next time he had school was today, Monday. I wanted to see how his transition onto the bus was going to transpire. I showed up at Tracie’s house right before the bus did. I prepared him my mentioning the bus beforehand. He replied by talking about how BIG it was. When I told him he was riding the bus again that day, he started whining. He’s not a big whiner.
I had to drag his little self up onto the bus. He fought walking to the bus, he fought getting on the bus, he fought buckling up. I kissed him reassuringly and told him I would be there when he was done with school. Then, I stepped off and waved goodbye.
The bus left to take him to school. I stood as the bus left in a trail of smoke. Then, I suddenly felt a protective urge well up inside of me. Little four-year-olds shouldn’t have to ride a bus to school. I wanted to make sure he was okay. After running inside to say goodbye to Tracie (who told me that she won’t put him on the bus again if he cries), I jumped in my van and chased the bus.
I didn’t want the bus driver to see me, because I was afraid that they might think that I was crazy, so I tried to keep a unobtrusive distance–like in the movies. But there really wasn’t any other traffic, so I ended up right behind the bus. The bus turned to go to the school, so to be sneaky, I turned at a different street. I waited for the bus, which was SLOW. I waited to see where the bus turned in, and then I parked my van behind a bush nearby. This was the point at which I dialed my husband.
Mark and I talked as I gave him a play by play of what was happening. It seemed sneaky, but in reality, I just sat there waiting for a while, waiting for them to get off the bus. Occasionally, neighbors would walk by and look at my van inquisitively. That did not deter me. After a while, I saw the speech teacher come out of the building. (This was a good 5 minutes later.) She entered the bus, and disappeared for a few minutes. Then, she came out of the bus with Isaiah wrapped around her. It seemed to take some coaxing to get him off the bus. As much as he doesn’t like the bus, he seems to like his new preschool even less–and he’s not the kid that argues about going places. He normally is quite happy to go play with other kids his age. I usually have to drag him from school, church, the babysitter, etc. The fact that he was hesitant to go to his new school (as he has been every day since the second week) tells me that this match is not going to work. It would be easier for everyone for him to return to his old school and see a speech language pathologist outside of school hours.
As I pulled away from the school, I really struggled with my need to stalk the bus. I have always felt that helicopter parents keep their kids from learning how to cope with every day life. But this was different. I don’t believe that teaching kids to be independent is the same as forcing them to be miserable–especially at the fresh age of four. He has plenty of time to learn life lessons. Right now, I just want him to feel secure. Yes, I was justified.
I dialed his old preschool immediately to tell them that he would be returning the next week..