Waiting at the Bus Stop with Mommy
I originally wrote this post in February 2012, when my now 16-year-old daughter Melissa was in 8th grade. As she prepares to start her sophomore year of high school, the words I wrote nearly two years ago still hold true. I dedicate this post to all the moms and dads out there who watched their cherubs get on the schoolbus this week. Whether it is for the first time or, in my case, the 10th, the emotions that come with letting go never change.
Pink backpack? Check!
Yes, the first day of Kindergarten had arrived, and my 6-year-old daughter Melissa brimmed with excitement, a precious cherub waiting to embark on her newest adventure.
She skipped along between my husband Bob and me as we made our way to the bus stop, at least 20 minutes early. I soaked in her emotions, while keeping my own in check. The anticipation of the first day reigned supreme among the handful of kids who greeted her at the corner. With camera in hand, I snapped still poses, while my next door neighbor Angelica shot video footage of her son Christopher, who would be in Melissa’s class.
At long last, or all too soon, depending on your perspective, the school bus arrived. We paused for a moment to let the older students climb on first. Christopher boarded next, jumping the stairs and taking his rightful place among the big kids. Then came Melissa’s turn. She stopped halfway up the steps and, in response to my pleas, turned and gave me one more smile. Although the camera lens captured the scene, I need not have bothered taking photos. The moment has been burned into my memory forever.
The bus pulled away and I stood there, watching, finally allowing my own feelings to swim to the surface. I dabbed at the tears in my eyes, wondering just how many times I would experience this strange sort of melancholy every time Melissa passed through another milestone in her young life.
The next day, despite our best-laid plans, instead of being at the bus 20 minutes early, we were still gulping down breakfast, and running through the house, making sure we had everything we needed for “Kindergarten: Day 2.” Bob shouted words of encouragement, hoping to motivate us to move faster, yet his effort was all for naught.
“Mommy can drive you to school today,” I said reassuringly as I wrapped her in my warm embrace.
Soon enough, I found myself walking my baby into the office of her elementary school. The secretary greeted me with a brusque smile and asked the reason for the lateness.
Great, I thought. They are going to bestow the mother-of-the-year award on me right now. How was I going to handle 12 years of schooling for this child when I couldn’t even get her out the door on time for the second day of Kindergarten?
Before I could answer, the vice principal stepped out from behind her desk and held out her hand, giving my daughter a wide, sweet, calming smile. “It’s all right, sweetie,” she told Melissa. “I’ll walk you to your class.”
I certainly appreciated her kindness, but walking my daughter to class ranked as the number one, top priority on my to-do list at that moment. I wanted that honor, not some unknown school administrator!
“It’s OK,” I said. “I don’t mind taking her.”
“Mrs. Weinstein, we really ask that the parents don’t walk the kids to class, it helps them to get used to their new environment,” came her textbook reply.
With that, she took my daughter’s hand and off they went. I stood there in the hallway….frozen…. watching them walk away toward Melissa’s classroom . . . away from the office . . . away from me . . .
Wait. What? NO! That’s my baby you are taking away! THAT’S MY BABY!
I wondered if I would ever learn to let her go.
Eight years later, I still wonder.
Melissa, who is now in 8th grade, has no longer granted permission for her mother to accompany her at the bus stop. The strict rules allow me to walk outside with her and chat for a few minutes, however, as soon as the bus turns the corner and her fellow classmates get any inkling that she might be standing there with (gasp!) her mother, I must retreat back inside the house.
I break this rule quite often, retreating only to our front porch where I stand until I am absolutely, positively sure she is safely on the bus and on her way to school. This constant rule breaking is often met with scolding from my teenage offspring.
“Mom, the little 6th grader down the block doesn’t even have her mother wait at the bus with her!” she yelled in exasperation.
I’m not sure why I can’t let her go. I am gripped with some irrational fear that if I do not actually witness her stepping onto the bus, something will go wrong, she’ll be in harm’s way, and it will be beyond my control to do anything about it.
I try to explain that I worry out of love, which just leads to more exasperation on her part. She assures me that she is fine, and deep down I know she is right.
This morning, I tried to follow the rules. Indeed, I removed myself from the vicinity of the bus stop and went back into the house within the designated time frame. But the rules couldn’t stop me from watching out the window until I knew she was safe.
Next year, high school beckons, and four years after that, college. It’s ok though. I’m going to stow away under the bed in her dorm room. She won’t even suspect I’m there.
When will I let her go?
The answer is quite simple. Never.
Lisa Weinstein is a South Jersey mom who blogs about parenting a teen, coping with middle age and celebrating nearly two decades of marriage. This post was adapted from her blog, The Mixed Up Brains of Lisa Weinstein.