Today I dropped my 9 –year-old daughter off at the Jr. high bus stop.
Our school district offers violin lessons for 4th graders at the local Jr. high before school. 4th graders are to ride the bus with the Jr. High kids, take their lesson, and re-board the bus, which drops them off at their proper elementary school. Because I’m really very afraid of Junior High kids (I spent a year teaching 7th grade Spanish), I debated whether or not to just drive her to the school myself, sparing her the bus experience. She’s so tiny and sweet, I rationalized. Those kids will eat her alive. Plus, how will she be able to find the music room when she gets there? I mentioned this plan to Alex and, horrified, she replied, “Mom. There. Is. No. Way. You can’t drop me off.” She wanted to do this herself. She assured me that she’d sit near the bus driver and that if she couldn’t find the music room, she’d find a teacher and ask for help.
Plus, she didn’t want to be seen with her mother holding her hand at the Jr. High. I can be overbearing that way. You know, trying to hold her hand in public.
I reluctantly agreed to let her ride the bus.
Alex has been looking forward to the start of violin lessons for weeks. She’s been “practicing” with her half size violin and bow and trying to figure out how to properly tune it. Mike and I have politely listened to the squawks and squeaks of the tiny instrument, playing the part of the rapturous audience because of the delighted face Alex wears when she plays it. Well, I played the part. I think Mike really was rapturous. His love of our kids is big and unabashed. He loves them like crazy and is their chief cheerleader. He’s permanently proud of them.
I have learned to take ibuprofen before the concert of scratchy strings and loud whistling begins.
I woke Alex up early this morning and she stumbled out of bed with unusual compliance. She usually loathes the morning time. Today, however, she was excited. She carefully chose her outfit, took a shower, and asked me to blow dry her hair. She fussed over which shoes to wear and insisted her glasses were crooked. I fixed the apparently crooked glasses and watched Alex continue to bustle around the house as if she’d had one too many cups of coffee.
“She’s nervous,” I pointed out the obvious to my husband.
“Yeah, “ he replied, “Don’t worry. I’ll walk her to the bus.”
Alex must have overheard this exchange because when I went upstairs to check on her progress, she whispered,
“Mom, I don’t want Daddy to walk me to the bus.”
“Why not, honey?” I asked, surprised.
“I don’t know,” she fumbled and then looked at the floor.
Remembering her desire to not be seen holding my hand at the Jr. High, I could see her imagining Mike bestowing his big, unabashed love on her at the bus stop in front of the older kids.
“Oh, I said. “OK. How about if I drive you down and you can get out of the car when the bus comes?”
“OK, thanks Mom,” she answered with a sigh of relief.
I broke the news to Mike that his little baby girl didn’t want him to walk her down. It hurt his feelings. When I gently told him that she wanted me to take her, his shoulders fell and his face took on a pained expression.
Alex and I rushed out the door and drove to the bus stop. When the bus came, she flew out of the car and called out “Hi!” to the Jr. High kids in the most innocent voice I’ve ever heard. She threw me a grin and waved wildly as she boldly boarded the yellow school bus.
I came home and sat down on the couch next to Mike, remembering the days when I didn’t want my own parents to hold my hand in public. I tried to comfort him. I tried to explain that, in a way, Alex’s desire to go it alone on the bus is proof that we’re raising her well. The love we provide, the boisterous, full, crazy love Mike provides on a regular basis has helped create a strong foundation of self-confidence. She wasn’t rejecting us or being rude, she was testing out her independence. She wanted to see if she could get on that bus without her cheerleaders and their boisterous hugs.
He understood but, I think he still felt sad.
Tonight, when there are no Jr. Highers looking, I’m going to hold her hand tight. And Mike’s going to make a big fuss over her violin playing. Then, we’re going to hug her repeatedly.
She might be a little embarrassed but, that’s just the kind of parents we are.