Loss of Innocence
Sitting in my blog drafts is an entry I have been working on about protecting my kids innocence.
Did I ever tell you I hate the school bus? My kids can't even behave in a car driven by me 2 feet away from them with just the three of them in the car and they are 2, 5, and 6. Now you add 60 more kids of all elementary ages in a vehicle thats like 75 feet long with no seat belts and one adult and tell me, how is this good?
And let me tell you. I know a thing or two about the school bus. I rode in one. I'm a professional, alright? I had an assigned seat in the front back and middle of the bus in my day. Its a metal bin of potty mouths flying, spit ball flinging, and story telling bonanzas.I may or may not have been exposed to my first nudey magazine in a school bus. I won't mention any names here, but they know who they are, my eyes would never be the same.
I would have been completely fine driving Kendall to and from school daily if it meant avoiding the entire school bus situation. However, like a rite of passage, she so looked forward to this opportunity. To ride in the school bus, it was almost magical.
Kendall also just adores her bus driver. This bus driver has taken the time to learn each of their names and greets them excitedly each and every morning, and bids them farewell daily and occasionally gives them little trinkets and stickers on very special days. But she is one woman against like I said, 60 plus kids. Kendall has told me that due to the older kids not behaving they now have assigned seats.
I do remember this when I was in school. I always sat with my best friend, so in any circumstance, I had an assigned seat with her from kindergarten on. We could essentially hunker down with our knees pressing into the seats in front of us and be in our own world so that last months issue of Hustler was shielded from us by the immense height of the seat backs. In many circumstances while going through school I was completely blessed by this one person who was my better half, the school bus ride is one of many.
So my inner turmoil went on and on as Kendall boarded the bus daily. I reminded her that bullying was not ok, and that I wanted to know about it. I let her know that the things that came out of other kids mouths aren't sometimes pretty things and that she needed to remind herself of that and of what is right and wrong to her and in her home. I encouraged her to sit close to the front, and to find a buddy. I let her know that she is an example and although it may not always seem like it, someone is watching and its ok to show how to behave instead of going with those that aren't even when that seems easier. I reminded her she is a good friend and to look for chances to be one to someone who might not have one. In essence, I was preparing her to lose her innocence on a school bus, because she came from a bubble, like most five and six year olds should, and all I wanted her to do was wear ear muffs and blinders.
Last week I watched her get off the bus and I could read her body language as she took that last step onto the pavement. I walked quickly towards her as she raced her little legs towards me and wrapped herself around me. As I pulled her away to look at me I could hear the sobs. I quickly asked her what was wrong, she stated, 'some girls on the bus weren't nice to me and were laughing at me.' My heart crumpled into a million little pieces. You know its one of those things that you know the world will not always be nice to your little girl. But you still want to protect them. And in those moments you wrestle with being Mama Bear and growing angry, and to logical mom knowing that this is the way of the world, and I need to tell her how best to handle it. I asked her what her friend and seat partner did, she said, it happened after her bus stop and she was already gone. These older girls I suppose had shared a secret and when Kendall asked about it, they laughed, teased her, and then secreted some more, leaving her feeling awkward and embarrassed. I told her I was sorry, but that I was so very proud of her for sharing with me. In my head I was walking up to these girls on the bus and telling them a thing or two about what I thought about them messing with my baby.
As Kendall and I sat together in our protected little cave, I asked her what I wanted me to do. Did she want to move seats, closer to the bus driver? She said no, all of her friends were around this seat. So we discussed it. At two and three years old, if a playmate is doing something you don't like or not sharing, we encourage our kids to point out the wrong, saying no thank you, or I don't like that. In a bus, when you are six, without one hundred percent supervision because I want the bus driver to focus on the road, we talked about ignoring the girls who had hurt her feelings. That no, it wasn't right, but sometimes the bigger and better thing to do is to just ignore the situation all together so there aren't more problems. She fearfully asked what she was to do if they didn't stop, I told her that at that point we share with the bus driver in private and that she will take care of it.
She didn't want to do this because she didn't want the girls mad at her. I let her know that I too hoped it wouldn't end up this way, and that if worse came to worse I would just come and dangle these girls out the windows by their ankles, while the bus driver whipped around sharp corners, that will teach them to tease younger kids. Alright, so maybe I didn't say that, but I did start some bicep curls of a higher weight this week in preparation. Ok, so maybe I am kidding again, maybe. Watch your back ten year olds.
So she bravely boarded the bus the next day. Yesterday she came to me and told me it worked. She pretended those bigger girls weren't there and she minded her own business and nothing happened since last week. I was her freaking Ann Landers, a hero of advice...alright for this one thing, give me some credit.
But at the same time my heart was extremely heavy. School bus mockery seemed so small in comparison to a stranger storming into your school with guns shooting at you and your friends. I didn't feel foolish for worrying about the bus. This was Kendall's realm of unfairness and meanness at this point. What I felt was anger. Anger that this is where the world is. That I need to not only worry about children on a bus teasing my kids, but I need to worry about people coming into their school with weapons potentially taking them from me. When I was young we did drills for tornadoes, never for threats of terror. I remember covering my head cowering against the wall in a ball with anxiety thinking, what if there is a real tornado?!?! I would never be able to handle wrapping my head around a drill for potential terror.
I choose not to discuss this with Kendall unless she has questions. I think she is at an age and grade in school where she will not hear about this tragedy. I trust her innocence enough at this age that if she is fearful, and does hear something, she will come to me. And I will pray silently that what seems to be continually happening in safe environments all over America is never a reality for her or her brothers.
I am slow moving with a heavy heart for those families of all of those children in that school, I am sure they would trade bus ride mockery as an issue in a heart beat, I know I am thankful. But I am also angry for their grief. I want someone to do something. I want gun control and I want a greater awareness of mental illness. I want to only have to worry right now about school bus mockery. Let's start doing this together, NOW.