A couple of weeks ago, three new kindergarten children registered to ride the bus. When I saw the address of these children, I realized that they were three full blocks from my closest bus stop. It was also assumed by the office (and relayed to me) that this must be a daycare, because all three of these kids were the same age and had different last names. It turned out that that was a BIG mistake.
When I called who turned out to be the mother - ??? - must be some step-parenting or something going on here (as well, her last name is different from all three of the kids), I was stupid. I actually asked her if this was a daycare. She was incensed and quite huffily told me NO. She was the MOTHER.
I was off to a bad start.
I then asked her if she realized that my closest stop was three blocks from her house, to which she again angrily replied that, "they told me at the school that you could change that!" The conversation was heading from bad to worse.
I explained to her that it wasn't impossible to change a bus route, but that it would have to go through the proper channels. This took some time to get through her head. I was not saying it couldn't be done, I was saying that I would try my best to make the necessary arrangements and get back to her. The conversation did not end on a high note. It ended up with her cutting me off because "she had to go now" mid sentence.
I talked to my employer and I talked to the principal of the school. The principal told me that "the mom was sinking fast" and needed help getting these kids to school. So, for the sake of these children (and realizing that I could be headed for a tough situation dealing with this mother), we changed the route.
For some history, this school dismisses at 3:00, I usually leave by 3:10, drop off the kids and make it to my second school by 3:20 (because they are not too far apart). The second school actually dismisses at 3:10, but has kindly agreed to let me drop off the kids from my first school and wait the extra ten minutes for me to arrive before they get on the bus. I find that set-up preferable actually, because when I pull up the kids are waiting for me rather than the reverse.
However, now that I have changed the route, I am very late getting to the second school. In fact, today I didn't arrive at the second school until 3:30. Twenty minutes is a long time to expect children to wait for the bus after school and consequently, I've put in a request to review the route of the first school and perhaps drop some other stops altogether.
All for the sake of THESE THREE CHILDREN. Because these three children have totally captured my heart.
I had to call Marion*, the mother, the night before I started picking up these three children to let her know the stop times, to explain bus safety rules, and to stress the necessity of someone meeting these children at all times at the stop. I also told her that because the route was changed, the schedule was very tight and therefore it was very important for her not to be late at the bus stop.
The next morning they were waiting and I met the children. Tyler*, Tara* and Jaylynn*. I helped them on and explained how important it was for them to stay seated on the bus. And I met Marion*. Marion* explained to me that Tyler* liked to wander and she didn't think he would stay seated. She then stood on the bottom step and yelled at her children:
"YOU BETTER LISTEN ON THIS BUS BECAUSE IF YOU GET KICKED OFF I AIN'T WALKING YOU TO SCHOOL!"
Not a real good first (or should I say second) impression. I determined with everything inside of me that those kids WOULD NOT get kicked off the bus. I would work with them endlessly before that would happen.
And for the last week and a half, I have become smitten with them. Tyler* especially, who has a twinkle in his eye, a huge grin and a wonderful curiousity. All three chat my ears off, tell me about themselves, and ask questions about me and my children. And all three of them follow the bus rules bee-u-tee-full-y. Even Tyler*. In fact, some days if I don't tell Tyler* how fantastic he's done on the bus fast enough, the little imp says to me, "I done good today sitting, didn't I?" with a big grin. How can you not love a kid like that?
But I was struggling with Marion*. And that bothered me because I didn't want to feel that way. After she yelled at them on the bus, I knew I was really going to have to pray about this woman, for both of our sakes.
Things were going perfectly until Wednesday. No one was there to pick them up at their stop. They live in a duplex just two houses from the corner, but I couldn't see their door from my stop. Because it would have made me even later to drop them back off at the school (and I was scared they would get into trouble if I did), I made the decision to back the school bus around the corner to the spot where I could see their door so that I could let them out and watch them go to the door. Fortunately someone came to the door and they got in safely. However, technically I am not supposed to back a school bus up without an adult spotter (because I can't see behind me) and only did it because I backed it around a bend and could see around the bend first. But I knew I could not do that again.
So, I knew I would have to call Marion* that night and was not looking forward to it. I made the call and very kindly asked her why nobody was at stop. She told me she left it to her older kids because she wasn't home, and that she even called them once to remind them. She sounded a little bit contrite and I was hopeful. I explained to her that in the future I would have no choice but to return them to the school and that she would then have to go and pick them up.
I then told her that I adored her children and I found them delightful. I told her that they were very good at obeying the rules and, in fact, were some of my best behaved kids. I ended by telling her was that it was a real pleasure having them ride on my bus.
I don't know if I can find adequate words to express this, but after I said this, Marion*, the very hard, angry woman who mothered these three adorable children, used a tone I'll never forget when she said, "Really?". Not of shock, but more of wonder. And not at all the hard tone she had been using with me.
And suddenly I realized that it wasn't so hard to like Marion*. That Marion* is likely the product of a difficult childhood (because that's usually the case), and abusive relationships and hasn't yet figured out how to get out of the "pit".
And I also realize, again, how much I've come to love this new place I've come to in my life. It's unexpected. It's heartwrenching. And I believe it's the perfect will of God. I am content.