Wednesday, October 1, 2008

School Bus Test Chamber

Before I had children, I did not really understand the concept of keeping children on the “straight and narrow.” The concept seemed very limiting to me. I mean, what kind of crazy person wants to keep their children in such a cage? Why straight and narrow? Why not a few curves and grassy clearings?

As an engineer, I tend to think of things in the limit of their possibilities. In my imagination, I take things as far as they can go and imagine the outcome. (Which is probably why my daughter’s favorite number is infinity, and why she likes to test ME to the limits of my possibilities).

Think of the school bus for a moment as a test chamber. You spend a good five or more years working on this child, trying to get it all right, and then you put this child on the bus to see exactly how that worked out for you.

If you have taught your child, for example, to tell the truth, you might well expect that the child will tell you every naughty thing that happened on the bus. He is now a tattle-tale.

If you have taught your child to have conversations with adults, then expect that he is now a distraction to the bus driver (but will know everything about the bus maintenance schedule, the route, and even the bus driver’s latest surgery).

If you have taught your child to be generous and share, expect the poor soul to lose a few toys to otherwise well meaning fellow-riders.

If you have taught your child to listen, to be a team player, your child will now become the victim of an older child’s joke.

If you have taught your child to have self-confidence, he may well appear very disrespectful, especially once he gets to school.

If your child has been instructed in leadership, then expect the line into ‘bully’ to be crossed at least a few times.

If your child has learned to love others, then a little heartbreak now and then is certainly in the forecast.

So, the other day, when my son chose something I wouldn’t have had him wear, and he was playing by himself rather than joining the group, I paused. At first, I wanted to tell him,

“Honey, don’t you want to play with the other kids? Don’t you care what they think?”

But, I didn’t tell him that. I thought a lot about what it means for a child to care a little bit too much about what the other kids think. Especially what that might mean in the preteen years. What I found out was that he didn’t want to play the same game they were playing. He wanted to play something else, but he couldn’t remember the name of it. He wasn’t excluded. He was playing on his own terms.


Of course, he bumps into the thistle on either side of that straight and narrow path on an hourly basis. Every time, I hope he explores a little bit more. How the truth is important, but maybe every detail isn’t. How sharing is important, but maintaining your own property is perfectly correct too. How it feels to be natural leader versus a ringleader.

And, of course, how we will always love him, even when the world seems full of heartbreak.


OHmommy said...

Did you read my blog today? Is this in response to what I wrote, LOL.

Weird. I really should stop talking to you in real life. Or move to Africa so I have some different topics to blog about than suburban school bus bullies.

Indy said...

Must be that time of year. Ry had some issues today too.

Flea said...

This is an incredible post. Very wise mama, you are. And glad to see OHmommy here, because I immediately thought of her and today's post. :)

Badass Geek said...

You have a beautiful mind. I wouldn't have thought of this quite this way before now.

enthalpymama said...

Ohmommy - Yes, it was in response to you, of course! I linked to you (which was my very first link ever) so that you and everyone else would know where I got my inspiration. I meant it as a compliment, of course, but I'll try to avoid overlapping topics if its annoying. I am sure I am plenty annoying in real life without having that spill onto the blog world.

Is there a blog etiquette book somewhere?? I need one! Help!!!

enthalpymama said...

Indy - I think it is that time of year. I'm sure you already read Ohmommy's post before mine. Clearly, Flea did too.

Badass - Thank you! You are going to read so many mommy blogs you are going to out-mommy all of us when you finally choose to have kids.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, and very true. Your children are lucky to have you as their mother.

Being a parent causes so much heartbreak because you feel their pain so intensely and the line between being careful and over-protective is a fine one. You can only do your best.

And as in your last sentence, when things do go wrong and their world is full of heartbreak, having a parent who understands, loves and supports them is all they need to get things into perspective, help them to dust themselves off and COPE with it on their own eventually.

This post struck a chord with me. My son suffered terrible mental bullying from a teacher when he was only six. I didn't find out until the poor little mite broke down. He'd kept it to himself because he thought she must be right about him being a bad boy. (He only had mild ADHD.)

He now knows that his parents will fight for him all the way and that he will eventually leave the pain behind, which he has done, thankfully. My son now feels that he can take on anything, and frequently does.

You can't always be there to protect them, but as long as you're there to catch them when they fall and give them love, comfort and guidance, they'll grow into well-balanced adult individuals, stronger for the bad experience.

There are bullies at every turn in life and sooner or later they have to learn how to deal with them. My sensitive, shy little weed is blossoming into a beautiful flower who never ceases to amaze me.

Oh my, I've gone on a bit.

Anonymous said...


I loved that you "went on a bit." I was completely engrossed, and I think you capture the balance perfectly -- the balance between what Ohmama so poignantly portrays (how painfull this mothering stuff can be, how heartbreaking a process)and the level-headed reminder Emama beckons us back to. It's the intersection of these portraits which you so beautifully describe in your own post -- the pain of sending them off into the harsh world, the wisdom of understanding the necessity of such "test chamber," and the heartwarming skill you had with Ry, knowing exactly when to rush in and "cover" for the world's blunder. (It's just a bit sad when we're covering for a teacher, instead of for a peer.) --Melanie

OHmommy said...

Great conversations.

Just back here to physically smack my forehead and document it. I now see the link.

I ought to stop reading blogs late at night before going to bed. ;) Beautiful post, as always.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Melanie, but it was "Emma's" lovely post that induced the outpouring. When you comment on a good blog, it feels a bit like having an intimate chat with friends. It's still too painful for me to actually write about on my blog. In fact I only checked back because I felt slightly uncomfortable about rattling off.

Hope you get a blog soon - you should, so that you can share your writing as well. It was you who wrote the guest post whilst Emma was on her mommy jaunt, wasn't it?

enthalpymama said...

Wow. I'm honored to be the hostess to all of this.

Scatterbrain, Thank you for allowing us to hear about your experience.

Yes, Melanie was my guest blogger. I encourage you to continue needling her about posting. She really should have her own blog, but at very least she is always more than welcome to give me a day off. hint hint

Robin said...

Nice post. Just wait until your son wears a kilt to high school and you realize your prayers that he not be afraid to be his own person were answered. Thank you God??