The other day in the car, I eavesdropped on my 5 year old and 7 year old sons chatting in the way back. I gotta be honest. It’s the end of a long summer and lately? I’ve been kinda tuning them out at times. There are only so many convos like this I can listen to:
“That’s MY Lego guy! Give it!”
“No, it’s not!”
“Yes IT IS, you big poo poo head!”
I know this is where I should say I always pull the rig over and speak to them about sharing and not hurtling potty talk insults at loved ones, but I’m not into lying, sooooo, no. Sometimes they just need to hash it out…. and sometimes mama needs to get to Tarjay in a timely fashion! If it borders on assault and battery, well that’s another thing.
Part mother, part taxi driver, part bar bouncer. I really need to update my resume. (Head hunters: call me!) Big money, big money, no whammies!
CRAP. I GUESS IT IS TIME TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL. Credit: Photobucket
Ahem. So, 5 year old is starting kindergarten in a matter of days. And unlike my 7 year old, who, even if his body language screams, “I AM NERVOUS!” won’t articulate it, 5 year old has been asking a lot of questions, usually at bed time.
“What if you forget to pick me up, mama?”
I do have to pick him up because there’s only a bus one way in kindergarten because it’s only a half day on the kind
cheapo taxpayers’ dime. I know! Instead of spending the 5 large it costs for the optional other half, I plan to make up for it by ”homeschooling” him myself for the other half of the day. I think the third hour of Today, lunch, then Days of Our Lives will provide excellent learning opportunities. Every kindergartner deserves to learn how to dress right for his body type. And figuring out how to ward off crime lords who’ve died and come back to life seven times is clearly a vital skill for the playground. Let’s just see who knows what’s what come first grade, okay? My money is on school of hard knocks/fashion plate boy.
Another valid concern he has: “What if you’re late to pick me up, mama?” Well, I do my best, but you never know. I’m one Facebook status away from being late sometimes. And if I get caught behind Artie the one man 89 year old party cruising to Bingo in his Crown Vic, we know Imma have to ‘splain myself when I’m last in line.
Really, we’ve tried to reassure him that everything will be fine, that I could never forget him, and that the awesome kindergarten teachers would NEVER kick him to the curb in the rare event I might run late. We’ve tried to pump him up for the bus ride in the morning with his brother and the fun neighbor kids.
He hasn’t been satisfied. So I wasn’t totally surprised when I heard the boys talking in the car. The maturity and the rational q and a that went down is what threw me.
5 year old asked 7 year old, “There are seat belts on the bus, right?”
“Actually, no there aren’t.”
“What!? That’s not safe at all! That doesn’t make sense!”
“I know it sounds strange, but you get used to it. It’s okay.”
“Well that isn’t safe. I command them to put seat belts on the bus!”
How can I argue with that logic? That it makes no sense to a five year old who knows darn right well we don’t drive three feet without putting on our seat belts is telling. Of course this is the kid who shouts from the back, “That kid has no helmet on, mommy!” when he sees a kid riding a bike without one–and chided me today, “I’m ready for my bike ride. Make sure you get your helmet on, Mama, and forget those flip flops. You need shoes!” And he’s also the kid who’s scolded me for waving my hands in the air and dancing while driving (If you saw me dance you’d know that really is a crime). “Both hands on the wheel, moooom, both hands on the wheel!”
(I know what you’re thinking. You can say it. He’s hall monitor material.)
I wasn’t sure what to say to him in the car. As a parent, it’s kind of our job to know what to say and when to say it. But how could I tell him it was fine for him to sky around town on a gigantic bus without a seatbelt, when I myself wrote in Mommy Mixology, “I pictured people blasting around town texting/sexting/chomping Whoppers, and not seeing (until it was too late) a bus filled with little kids sans seat belts.” after I saw my oldest son off to kindergarten?
I’ve had no choice but to train these two sons to assess some risk at a very young age. Mostly, out of necessity. They both have life threatening peanut and tree nut allergies. It’s been drilled into their heads since they were 2 that they never take food, even from a well intentioned family member or friend, without first asking, “Did you read the label? Is it safe for me?” as peanuts and nuts can lurk in some surprising places.
And so for reasons beyond the bus, I’m always holding my breath a little at the beginning of the school year. I’m relying on young children to heed my warning not to take food from anyone. I’m trusting teachers to help them navigate the unexpected unsafe foods that unfortunately can wind up in classrooms, so they don’t have to shoulder worry and can focus on learning. And I’m hoping against hope he and all the other kids will get to school safely on a big yellow monstrosity with no seat belts.
I know I can’t keep my kids in a bubble. We have a fantastic bus driver. I know it will probably be fine. That’s what I continually tell myself. The perpetual worrier. The “what if” person that I am. Buses transport kids safely every day, after all. I’m not 100% sure it’s safe though, this is fact. But I’m not 100% sure life is safe. That walking is safe. That hanging from a monkey bar is safe. That walking home from the bus stop is safe. That taking a waiter’s word that the dinner is peanut free, is safe. OMG, that anything is safe!
I realize, it’s not that it’s too hard to articulate to him exactly how safe the bus is. It’s not that I can’t find the words. I realized it’s this: he doesn’t need to know. He shouldn’t know. It’s my job to assess risk. To worry. Not his. It’s his job to be a kid, to feel the thrill of making a new friend on the bus, on the playground, in the lunch line. To fly through the air on a see saw, with me not peering around a corner. To feel the pride when another adult, a teacher who isn’t his parent, tells him what a great job he’s done or how proud they are of his work.
So I say nothing, and keep driving.
On the first day of school I will remind him to always do his best. To be kind to all the kids. To be a good student and a good friend. And when the bus fades away down the street with he and his brother on it, I will probably blink back tears, mostly of joy, knowing he’ll be full of every hope and dream his 5 year old heart can hold, all the while hoping I’m doing the right thing for him. And that he will be safe, always safe.