And so it begins. Matthew has only been in school for one week and already we’re having us a Sick Day. Matthew was up at 4 this morning all sniffly and coughly. Being a good, caring dedicated mom I planned on medicating him and sending him out to infest the world with germs (he got it at school, so he wouldn’t be the first to take it to school, right? Right?). Plus he seemed a bit better this morning…that is until he sneezed at the breakfast table. The sneeze was mammoth spewing across the table a shower of chewed-up waffle and “dinosaur snot” – that’s the nasty spewing, ooey-gooey kind – all over Zach who proceeded to sit there, shocked and unsure of what to do, covered in snot and waffleness going, “EEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWW, he got snot all over me.” I looked at Zach; I looked at Matthew and said “Guess I better call the school.”
I was really hoping that Matthew would be at school today – not just because it’s lame he’s sick and missing class in just the first full week of school – but because I had an important note for him to deliver to Mrs. Randall. See, we had kind of a stressful event happen yesterday, and I wanted to let Mrs. Randall know so that it hopefully won’t happen again. Allow me to fill you in.
We were waiting at the bus stop with the Bus Stop Crowd – BSC. The BSC is huge and so far – in my immense BSC experience (the whole four days of it), I LOVE the bus scene. The families in our neighborhood are awesome, and I kind of think one of these days, I’ll show up, set up a table and start handing out glasses ‘o margarita goodness (it just seems like a party atmosphere) and we’ll have a fiesta in the street. At any rate, Zach and I are hanging with the BSC awaiting the bus to arrive driven by Bus Driver Bob. (OK, how can you not love the fact that Matthew’s first ever bus driver is called “Bus Driver Bob”? And Bus Driver Bob brings little dog treats and tosses them out the door to the leashed canine pets of the BSC. Even the dogs love Bus Driver Bob!!).
Bus # 7 rounds the bend, stops and about 20 million little people start tumbling out (in a safe, organized way). The BSC consists of nearly every elementary family in the neighborhood – we almost all go to the same stop, so it’s a ton ‘o kids. I see our neighbor girls Stephi and Ellie, Sydney and Zoe (lots of girls!), I see Mick from Matthew’s class, and then I see Shay – Matthew’s 2nd grade girlfriend and daughter of my running pal Andrea. Shay is more responsible than a 5th grader and has taken Matthew’s hand every morning (along with her younger sister Brooke’s) and led them on to the bus where the three of them squeeze into a seat. She’s been Matthew’s little 2nd grade guardian angel at school, and I honestly trust that girl more than…myself. ?! Anyway, I smile and wave at Shay and for the first time ever she doesn’t smile at me right away.
“Matthew wasn’t on the bus,” she says. I look up and realize that Bus Driver Bob is already pulling away from the curb and, yes, there is no Matthew in sight. I immediately say, “Snap,” pick up Zach and start running. OK, it’s wasn’t Snap it was something else that starts with S and has four letters and rhymes exceptionally well with HIT. Andrea yells, “Jenny! Leave Zach with me!” I put Zach down and start sprinting down the street. Bus Driver Bob – who is just starting to drive away shakes his head, shrugs his shoulders and raises his hands at me like, “Sorry. He wasn’t on the bus. Dunno.” I raise my arms hoping that in that one movement I’m communicating: Yeah. What’sup?! Why wasn’t he on the bus? Where is he? Thanks for your help, anyway. You rock, Bus Driver Bob. I’m sure he got ALL that from my flailing arms as I continued sprinting down the street. (I imagine I looked more like a large, awkward chubby bird flapping my wings attempting to lift off but fail miserably and have no choice but to keep running).
“Great. The one day I don’t bring my cell phone to the bus stop,” I think as I continue haulin’ down my street. I’m just nearing the one-block-away-from-our-house spot, when a minivan pulls up and drives along side me. It’s Holly – a mom in the neighborhood. “Looks like you need a ride!” She shouts.
“Yes, that’d be great, thank you,” I pant as I jump in. Holly and I have never actually met. She introduces herself and I tell her I know who she is and where she lives but I swear I’m not a stalker it’s because Andrea knows her and has pointed out her house to me. Meanwhile I realize that I have a bug in my eye. Yes. I’m that kind of dedicated mother. I was sprinting so fast to go find my lost 6-year-old that a bug flew into my eyeball. He did not stand a chance against this mama-on-a-mission.
“My kindergartener didn’t get off the bus,” I explain as I direct her around the bend to our house and try to extract bug carcass from under my eyelid. She glances at me and assumes I’m crying because of my lost child.
“I’m sure he’s safe and at the school office, they’re really good about this sort of thing,” she reassures me.
“Oh, I know. I just have a bug in my eye,” I say ‘cuz I’m the coolest/slash/cruelest mother ever. What must Holly think of me?!
“One of the moms from the bus stop flagged me down and told me to go pick up the running lady. You were doing pretty well with the running though,” she said.
“I run with Andrea,” I say as if that explains why I’m lightning fast…nothing but a blur of mommyness flying down the street.
I thank her for the ride and practically jump out of the van while it’s still rolling. Thankfully, the garage door opens right away, and I propel up the stairs to get my purse and phone. I check my phone, as I hop in the car and there are two messages – I pray that one of them is from the school.
It is. Thank God.
“This is Hazelwood Elementary. We have Matthew here in the school office. He seemed to think he was getting picked up today and missed the bus. Can you please call us and let us know you’re able to come get him?”
I leave the driveway (forgetting to close the garage) and head up the street. I turn the AC on full blast realizing that I’m sweating like a crazy thang. I dial the school back as I pass all of the BSC heading home – including Zach walking under 2nd grader Shay’s (and Andrea’s) protective care. They cheer me on. Dang. They’re still a LONG walk from home. I’m fast!
“Hazelwood Elementary,” a friendly womanly voice says.
“Hi, this is Jenny Martin,” I pant, “I’m Matthew’s mom, sorry I didn’t have my cell phone with me. I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.” I’m already turning out of the neighborhood on to the main street.
“OK!” she says cheerily. “We’ll see you soon!”
I park and hightail it to the main office. (I don’t run in the halls though since I’m pretty sure that’s still a universal school policy).
When I walk into the office, I see Matthew sitting in a chair – jacket on, backpack on, eyeballs all red from crying…I try not to join in right then and there while giving him a big hug.
“Matthew! You silly. Why did you think I was picking you up today?” [I don’t ever pick you up ‘cuz that’s just being an overachiever. You need to get your own butt home, child.]
Matthew mumbled something unintelligible. I thanked the office ladies. They thanked me for having all of my phone numbers and information on his bus tag (pinned to his backpack). Ha! Maybe I’m not a slacker mom after all.
In the end, this is how I understand the story: The kindergarteners have a Bus Buddy – a 4th or 5th grade girl who rides the same bus, helps them line up in the right spot and then leads them up the stairs to the bus curb. Matthew says – or thinks – he saw his Bus Buddy so he followed her, but instead of heading out the back door to the bus line-up spot, she went out the front door to the car/parent pick-up spot. That’s when – I think – he started to cry and a Mom saw him and directed him to a 1st grade teacher standing nearby. They saw his tag, took him to the Bus #7 line-up spot, but it was too late; the bus had already left.
I assure Matthew that he did everything right – didn’t get in a car, didn’t just start walking away from school, didn’t get too lost, he found a mom (or a mom found him) and got the help he needed – but from now on since he KNOWS where the Bus #7 line-up spot is, he shouldn’t pay attention to what other kids are doing he should just take care of himself and get to Bus #7. After saying this in about seven different ways, eight different times, Matthew finally says, “Mom. Can we be done talking about this now?”
Sigh. Talk about cutting the umbilical cord or apron strings. Pushing your baby out of the nest. Releasing them into the wild. Sink or swim baby, and thank God we’ve had over a year of swim lessons. It’s a BIG pond out there.