Letting Life Lead
When I was in sixth grade, I had an opportunity to attend a special fall program at another school. It would have required me to take the bus once a week during regular hours and return to my school before the end of the day. I was so excited! My school life had very little joy. Okay, let’s be honest. No joy. Bullies, labeled too smart, being odd, and “teacher’s pet” hung over my head daily. I hated school; loved learning. I should’ve had an ulcer.
I had butterflies! I skipped all the way home.
My mother said no. No bus rides.
I was morose. I cried. I wilted.
My grandparents may have tried to intervene or it might have been my sobbing. She finally said yes. I ran all the way to school that Saturday morning. It was too late. The school grounds were deserted. I cried some more and dragged my feet home. Another student got my spot. It turned out to be the class bully. I remember her name; I still hate it.
That summer my teacher volunteered me for a brand new computer program at the school that only had a few bus rides to the city’s college campus. I begged and fought harder. They had Commodore Computers with one of those crazy light pens! This time I got a yes (almost too late). It turned into the best summer.
Looking back, my school years are marked by a lot of missed buses. Kids stopped inviting me to parties, sleepovers, and to their houses to play because I often had to say no. A chance to learn to ski passed. I couldn’t accept rides even in the rain or cold from even a mom I’d known for years. I got in trouble once for riding a friend’s bike — Cindy. Embarrassed, I never went to her house again. Some rules I had to follow made me stick out, too. I spent more and more time stepping away from opportunities. It wasn’t worth the effort to fail or have to say no.
I quit learning the saxophone in elementary school to escape being teased mercilessly. I got into so much trouble! In my mind, it was better than the stalking and daily threats of an ass-kicking by the class bully who had been in every single one of my classes since first grade! I gave up a chance to speak at a televised event that same year because I was terrified of sticking out. Head down; blend in. Except Brownies at the local church. I quit that because they had us making stupid craft-crap like feather dusters. Feather. Dusters. Even at age eight I knew that was wrong on so many levels.
By the time I got to High School, I stopped joining clubs or trying at all. I didn’t date and rarely socialized outside a small circle. No Senior Prom. I wanted to join Drama club but didn’t. I ended up on the Year Book committee and typed an enormous amount of material, but I missed the photo day; I am not pictured with the other staff.
How did I end up with kids that are go-getters and social powerhouses?
I worry. I worry something will quell their enthusiasm.
I worry it might be me.
My daughter wanted to ride the bus to Kindergarten this year. I told her I wasn’t ready because I wanted to see her bound into the school the way I did my first year. I promised us both, though, that for first grade she would ride the bus. We have a plan for future slumber party sleep-overs, and my daughter had her first “other mom” play date to an art class not long ago — without me. I am prepared to have a harder time letting my four-year-old son stretch his wings, but I will survive.
I might need to eat a lot of ice cream. And Swedish Fish.
I’m set in my ways, but I’ve tried over the years to not miss a bus when they come around. I’m not always successful. I will make sure, though, that my babies get on or chase it down and jump on the back doors if they have to.
“Hey! Don’t forget your helmet!”
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