by Jennifer Dyer
Day two of the special ed bus chronicles started bright, not too hot, and everyone was up and going on time. I had Rachel’s lunch prepared the night before, so we were outside and ready long before the bus got to our house.
When it chugged around the corner, I gave Rachel the “Last Minute Mommy Speech.” In her case it was, “On the bus, your shorts stay up.”
Yes, when I first became a mother that was what I imagined saying before launching my kids off to school. “Play nice. Keep your clothes on!”
Life has a way of laughing at you…
So, there I was, trying to get through to my sensory-challenged, verbally-challenged daughter that it is best to keep her clothes on. She signed, “yes,” so I thought we were good.
She climbed onto the bus while hubby and I waved our arms off, tears in our eyes at our big girl and her big adventure on the bus. She sat in the front row. Got up. Sat in the second row. Moved to a seat further back in the bus. Moved back to the front.
A faint mommy radar signal off, “Ruh roh, Raggy…” But the rest of me–the part that keeps hoping fairies will clean my kitchen while I sleep–was certain everything was fine. I jogged back inside to get Eldest ready for school.
A minute later the bus was back.
Rachel had taken off her pants, she wouldn’t leave the seat belt on, wouldn’t stay seated, and was possibly staging a coup.
I wanted to hide. It was as if I’d opened a bag of my favorite chocolates only to find out it was filled with ants. It’s always something with my sweet Rachel. We run a marathon daily with her sensory issues, her food issues, her language issues, and I thought we had come so far with her clothes issues.
And I certainly never envisioned rooms in my home looking like:
Why is everything so difficult?
The bus took off only to stop a few feet down the street because Rachel took her clothes off again. Tears blurred my vision. What must those drivers think of us? Did they skydive to the conclusion that we were the creepiest people on earth because our daughter sheds clothes in public?
As I slumped back to the house, I imagined all kinds of horrors. CPS pounding on my door asking why I let my child act so terribly. Scowling bus-driver faces every day, full of disdain for my child. A call from the school telling us her bus rights have been terminated.
So, I called a friend who would tell it to me straight.
“First of all,” she said. “CPS coming to your house is not the end of the world. Second, and more important, the bus drivers work with special ed kids. They know there will be challenges. Yes, you’re embarrassed, but I doubt they reacted as severely as it seemed. They probably just came back to make certain everything was OK.”
Sometimes I must separate myself and Rachel from her behavior. We are not defined by autism, but instead by what is in our hearts.
So, this morning, I put on a brave face as I walked Rachel out to the bus, still unsure how the drivers would react.
And you know what? They were kind and compassionate. They weren’t horrified or traumatized or ready to cast judgement upon me. In fact, they just want to help Rachel.
So, one of us–ahem, moi–needs to chill and embrace my not-so-normal life.
On a side note, in preparation and because Rachel is so visual, I made her the following social story on the photo editor PicMonkey: