Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Bus Stop

It's funny, I have started to write posts about the school bus stop near my old house countless times since we started waiting there eight years ago. It is possible that I might have published one or two of them, but I don't think I did. Regardless, the bus stop was a big part of my life for a long time.

We spent a lot of time there and our experience evolved over the years. Our first year, it was just me and one kid waiting with his little brother. Then there was the year that there were so many kids coming from places not even in the bus stop area that the bus was too crowded and the principal had to ride the bus to make sure kids from outside the area weren't riding. (Although, frankly, it seems like maybe they should have added a bus stop instead of making those kids walk to school.) Then we stabilized into a core group of neighborhood kids who all followed Quinn in rolling down a grassy hill and messing up their hair and getting grass stains all before the morning bus came to take them to school.

It was a good bus stop.

I have heard that since Quinn left, no one rolls down the hill anymore.

Now we have a new bus stop. Jack's bus comes right to our house and Alex drives Sam to school, so, just like last year, only Quinn and I have a bus stop wait.

We only have to walk a few houses down the street to get to the stop this year. There were a bunch of moms and kids there today. Yesterday there were a bunch of dads and one mom. I haven't met many of our neighbors yet, so I've been nervous too, just like Quinn. I figure the bus stop is the time to meet these people and force their kids to like mine. (Kidding. Kind of.)

You know what though? It is hard.

There is one super nice woman who introduced herself yesterday and chatted with me today too. Yesterday Quinn was too stressed for us to get anywhere near anyone else, so we were a little isolated and the nice lady (also known as my new neighborhood best friend) only had a chance to introduce herself after I shoved Quinn on the bus.

Yes, quite literally shoved him on the bus. May you never have to do that as you kiss the top of your child's head and whisper "You are brave. You've got this." It sucks.

After school yesterday, Quinn got off the bus smiling. "It's only because I was happy that I was at the right stop," he was sure to tell me, lest I jump to the conclusion that school made him happy. No worries, Quinn. Those conclusions are still far away.

This morning (Wednesday) at the bus stop, things were a little better. I had done some sensory work with him before we left the house and I also had some bravery M&Ms to give him. He was more relaxed and a little less stressed. Plus one of the moms at the bus stop brought a small dog with her, which was excellent.

I still had to shove Quinn on the bus but I totally didn't have to push quite as hard as yesterday, so that's something. I did still kiss him on the head and tell him that he was brave.

Then the bus pulled away and the dog lady walked away and the nice lady started chatting with the other two moms there and wasn't that just the perfect time to introduce myself to these other women, but instead my feet started carrying me away and I walked home wondering why I hadn't taken advantage of that perfect opportunity.

Spoiler alert: I know why I didn't take advantage of it and it has a lot to do with the same reasons why my child had to get shoved on the bus: anxiety and some social ineptitude.

I made plans with myself to talk to the women tomorrow, but then I realized that I have to rush off to work tomorrow, so maybe Friday? But what if it's a dad day on Friday? And then I realized that I have many days to meet these women (and, I suppose, even the dads) and if I lurk close enough and smile broadly enough (that is, in fact, my entire social plan for pretty much everything), eventually I will talk to them.

If, that is, I prep myself with some bravery M&Ms of my own.


  1. I find when they start chatting together and turn their backs to me, it actually isn't a good time to introduce myself. That seems to me to be a cue to walk away. Consequently, I don't do well at bus stops or parks, either.

    So I usually make up my mind to wear my squid hat. That at least makes them ask me why I'm a grown woman in a squid hat.

  2. I would have walked away too and then spent hours beating myself up for missing the opportunity, only to do the same thing the next day. It takes so much courage. Your smile is magic, by the way, so I'm sure you won't have to wonder how to introduce yourself much longer =)

  3. Oh, I so understand where you're coming from. I'm socially awkward, painfully introverted, and have only the most general idea of How People Work, so facing down the bus stop cliques is a terrifying prospect. The good news: No matter how many times your social anxiety might have forced you to flee the scene, it's never too late to initiate a connection. When Talia was in second grade, I finally broke into the bus stop clique after 2 months of awkwardly staring at my phone at the stop and bolting the second the bus left. I finally realized that the "perfect time" to introduce myself was never going to come and that there was no help for it but to plunge into the pool.

    I find that it's much easier to introduce myself by way of asking a question rather than the nervewracking process of walking up to a stranger, holding out a hand, and saying, "Hi, I'm X." So instead I might walk up to the clique and say, "Excuse me, I'm new to the neighborhood, and I wonder if you could help me. Do you know..." and ask them some dumbass question (or maybe a not-so-dumbass question) about the school or the neighborhood. Most people--even rushed, cliquey, or not-fully-caffeinated people--are usually happy to share their knowledge and feel useful. With that, it's easy to segue into "Thanks so much. I've only lived in the neighborhood for a few weeks, so this really helps me out. By the way, I'm X--I live in that purple house down the road. My son Y is in third grade with Mr. Jones." This usually gets the conversation ball rolling.

    I also make sure to ask if I can put their names and numbers in my phone in case an emergency comes up (such as letting others know that you might be late to the bus stop). I'm horrible with names, so that helps me remember who they are--and, of course, gives me a safety net in case an actual emergency arises.

    And, yes, I'm not ashamed to admit that I use this script in pretty much every social situation that makes me want to run screaming into the night. Scripting can work just as effectively for me as for my daughter. :)

    And the idea of "bravery M&Ms" is so brilliant that I think I might need to steal it.

  4. When I used to take the bus to school there were only kids at the bus stop, no moms or dads. If someone's mother had waited for the bus with them, once that person boarded the bus, he or she would have been teased unmercifully for being a baby.
    (N.B.: Being called a baby was the worst diss ever at that age.)
    My son walked to school from kindergarten to grade 5, and after kindergarten, the kids walked alone, or in groups, unaccompanied by parents.
    I understand why you go to the bus stop with your boys, but it seems like all parents do it now. The bus stop on my corner seems to have more mothers there than kids, and some of the moms are parked in their SUVs, keeping an eagle eye on their children until they board the bus.
    What's up with that? Are they afraid someone will swoop in and single out their child for kidnapping? Are they all in the midst of custody battles? Stranger abductions are very, very rare, so why the herd of moms?

  5. You're a funny lady.

  6. I'm almost certain that I can come up with sixteen or seventeen dumbass questions almost immediately. Like, I guess people do things like just introduce themselves because that is what people do, right? But, yeah, busting into a group seems bold. Standing several feet away from them, they looked like a nice group.

  7. I don't know. I mean, for me, right now, Quinn couldn't do it without me.

    I think some parents are there because they are near busy streets or because you are actually by law (at least where I live) not allowed to leave an under-9yo kid by him/herself or maybe just even because that's just what people do, so the parents don't really think about it.

    Quinn walked home from the bus stop by himself at our last house, but after his wrong stop debacle from day one, I'll be there to pick him up for a while to make him feel safe.

    Hopefully the kids on Q's bus are nicer, because it makes me sad to think of them calling him a baby because he's scared. :(

  8. I think bravery m and ms should be a new flavor.

  9. I doubt anyone would call Quinn a baby because that would be bullying, and some other child on the bus would rat him out to the assistant principal in charge of bullying prevention, and he or she would be duly punished.
    Perhaps the moms congregate at the bus stop because that's the only chance they'll have to see each other, having jobs, unlike my mother and her lady neighbors, who had nothing to do all day but hang out, clean the house and make jello molds.
    BTW, I think it's awful that your town actually has a law that you can't leave a nine-year-old by himself. Ever? Jeeze Louise, I had friends who were babysitting at nine.
    Are you aware of Lenore Skenazy and her Free Range Kids crusade? She makes a lot of sense.

  10. Now that I think about it, the law is for seven and under. Kids can't be left alone at home or in cars and I assume that means other places as well. I'm not against it. Kids younger than 8 maybe aren't prepared for emergencies and stuff that arise if left alone. People have strong opinions about it, I know.

  11. RE: 'the nice lady started chatting with the other two moms there and wasn’t that just the perfect time to introduce myself to these other women'? Yes, it probably was. However, it's just the first week of school. No one expects perfect.

    Maybe tell your nice neighbor that you'd like to meet more of the neighbors, and their kids. Ask her if she'd like to go for a run / walk. Or, ask questions as Gayle suggested. The Moms / Dads will most likely be happy to chat about their kids. Maybe some of the kids are in Quinn's class. Ask where is the best coffee shop, park, or whatever.
    I wouldn't ask for phone numbers or to be Facebook friends right away; however I am not in that generation. And I get too many Linkedin invites. :)

    This might make you laugh [in a kind way]. So, when you invited everyone to Jack's hockey tournament, I decided to go. When I saw you, Alex, and Quinn on the bleachers, I got nervous, and almost turned around and drove home without saying 'hi'. Even though I know you are nice. Anyway, I'm glad I stayed. TMI, I know.

  12. Thanks, Karen! You're so right and I've actually been able to introduce myself to a couple other people with a blurted out, "I'M YOUR NEW NEIGHBOR! HI!"

    Re: hockey tournament: I would have almost done the exact same thing if our places were reversed. You, ma'am, are also brave.

  13. you are brave.


    i do this kind of thing ALL the time. thank you for reminding me i am not alone.

    and also. it is okay to take a long time. some places i lived for years before feeling like i could do that sort of thing. it is okay. we are just being our own selves, just like you see how Jack is perfect the way he is, with characteristics that make him struggle in society and others which are quintessential Jack. All part of the package.

    We struggle, we beat our selves up over it. and also, some times we pull it off.

    love you.

  14. I love you so very much, Sherry.

  15. you are brave. you got this.

    and if not, no one knows your cell didn't just vibrate in your pocket, so "oh, shoot, gotta take this .." is always an option. :)


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