Kyle’s school bus initiation began on his first day of preschool, three months after his third birthday. I was nervous. He had no clue what I was about to do. In the photo above, you can see the realization dawning on his face. “Wait a second, where are you going? Come back here Mom!” He couldn’t say those words, but his expression says it all.
It got worse from there. Once Kyle was safely buckled, I said a few cheerful words of goodbye and backed my 9-months-pregnant self down the steps. Thinking about what happened next still tears at my heart. As I put on a brave smile and waved goodbye, Kyle was screaming so loud I could hear him from a block away. His little arm was reaching towards me just as in the photo above. I watched the bus drive away and then sobbed the entire walk back to the house.
The next day I told my husband it was too emotional a job for me, so he stepped in until after Kyle’s baby brother was born a few weeks later. It took most of that time for Kyle to become accustomed to riding the bus. By the time I tried again, he was happy to go.
Our only hurdle was every time there was a substitute bus driver. It was like a reset button back to our early struggles. Somehow I realized that if I asked the driver’s name immediately and kept repeating it while Kyle boarded the bus, the transition was much smoother: “Kyle, this is John! John is driving your bus today. Hi John!” And Kyle was like, “okay, this is a real person. I’m good.”
Four-year-old kindergarten was a treat with the bus. From the first day, Kyle was pleased to ride. Each day when he returned home, we’d walk a few steps up the driveway and turn around to wave at his driver. His bus driver would not move the bus no matter how many cars were waiting behind her UNTIL she got her wave from Kyle. Kyle would wave (sometimes with a nudge from me–people were waiting!), the driver would point at him smiling and say, “that’s what I’m talking about!” and drive away.
Now, when Kyle goes to full-day kindergarten, his school bus ride is full of special small moments. He climbs the bus steps all by himself (when he’s willing) and finds his seat. He waves happily to me as the bus pulls away. When he returns home, he is always so excited to see me. He descends the steps and waves goodbye emphatically to his driver while saying her name.
Because I don’t see Kyle’s teachers on a regular basis, his bus drivers become the liaison between us. We have been lucky–all of the drivers who work with the special ed students in our district are caring and patient. They tell me how his day went at school, and relay my updates to his teachers in the morning.
When Kyle ascended the bus steps one morning last week, his driver told me how much she enjoys seeing Kyle’s face every morning. She said, “you know, his smile just lights up the world.” Yes, yes it does. <3