I did not substitute teach on the first day of school.
I was home for the day and able to get my kiddos both on and off of the bus, which is always a nice treat when they’re starting something new. I took the obligatory photos, welcomed back the drivers, and confirmed return times– all that usual stuff.
The first day, my youngest’s bus was due to arrive home at 3:31. Now, I knew it would be late, being the first day of school. I did NOT, however, expect it to be 4:15! Ah, well. So be it. By that time, I was already at the corner bus stop because my older two were expected home at 3:58. (Again, I knew they’d be late– I just didn’t know HOW late.) I welcomed them home at about 4:50.
The second day went more smoothly and, by the third, I was anticipating a rather well-oiled machine.
My youngest and I waited at the corner and watched the clock tick past 4:00. No biggie. Whatevs. We weren’t worried.
4:10 came and went.
Right around 4:30, the bus came around the corner (from the wrong direction, but who cared at this point) and dropped our kids off.
There were no other children on the bus.
A substitute driver leaned toward the door, “I missed your road,” she said apologetically. “I don’t know how, since yours is way easier to find than most on this route, but, by the time I noticed, I couldn’t turn around easily, so I had to come back at the end. I’m sorry.”
We parents nodded, smiled, assured her it was fine. Let’s face it– driving a bus isn’t easy, let alone being a substitute on an unfamiliar route!
And then I turned…
…and A. collapsed in my arms. He tipped his face up to mine (barely– that kid’s growing like a weed) and I took in his tear-stained face. He started to talk, but his voice just broke and fresh tears fell.
“Just go,” I told him. “Go on and run to the house. I’ll be there in just a sec’ and you can tell me everything.”
He nodded gratefully and took off like a shot.
Later, I spoke gentle words to him, saying, “Sweetheart– I’m sure it was upsetting when she missed the turn. I know you noticed right away and probably felt helpless. But I don’t understand why it was quite so upsetting for you. You had to know you’d get home eventually. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to have to sleep at the bus yard!” I smiled.
He looked at me with solemn blue eyes, “I just knew we would be so late. And we have karate tonight. And I was worried about getting my homework done and what if I had to stay up really late to do it and then I wasn’t well-rested for tomorrow?”
I put a hand on his shoulder and told him, “Buddy, you weren’t actually as late today as you were the first day of school, you know.”
Surprised, he asked, “Wait– how late were we today?”
“About a half hour,” I answered.
And, at that moment, C. looked up from her book on the couch…
“Wait– we were late?”
I burst out laughing. “Sweetheart, didn’t you notice she missed your road? Or that there was NO ONE ELSE on the bus?”
She shrugged, “The driver was there.” And went back to her book.
There are many times that C’s dreamy, distracted, and sometimes oblivious personality makes her life more challenging– getting ready, meeting deadlines, organizing plans– these things are hard for her.
But for that afternoon?
Ignorance was, indeed, bliss.