Family / Kids

Three to a seat

PHOTO CREDIT: DEBORAH GOLDSTEIN

PHOTO CREDIT: DEBORAH GOLDSTEIN

I watched my son board the school bus and find his usual spot, the third child in a crammed seat in the front row. Those three sit together each morning and play Yu-Gi-Oh, a Japanese trading card game.

Asher used to wave while the bus pulled away. He used to hold my eyes until the last possible moment – until we could no longer see each other’s faces and we could no longer see the tips of our hands waving good-bye. Now, he and his friends dive right into the game from the moment he lets his backpack drop to the floor.

I don’t mind that he doesn’t wave good-bye. We have our moment at the bus stop. He kisses my cheek and then presents me with the top of his head, uncomfortable with lip kisses. I can’t say that I blame him, frankly. Parent/child lip kisses have always seemed awkward to me, perhaps because my parents were not big lip kissers. The threat of exchanging moisture is deterrent enough for me to abstain.

I am not bothered that he has moved on from our long good-byes. Instead, I focus on the three of them shoved in that seat together, spilling out into the aisle, in the same way that I sat with my two friends on the bus through middle school. It is a familiar and wholly uncomfortable memory.

The three of us had no card game to play. We enjoyed each other’s company and never felt the need to exclude the other from the trio, even on the bus.

The kids on our bus were perfectly obnoxious. Left unattended, those obnoxious kids became rude and even cruel. For whatever reason, those obnoxious kids did not like that we chose to sit three in a seat.

There were rude remarks and intimidation and even spitting. On many occasions, kids called us “lesbians.” While I had absolutely no awareness of my own sexuality let alone feelings for girls, the label stung as it was supposed to because it meant that we were different in a bad way.

No one talked about bullying then.

One of my friends complained to our school guidance counselor and told him that kids were spitting in her hair and calling her a lesbian. The guidance counselor asked her what she was doing to provoke that behavior.

That was as far as it went.

We continued to sit together and hoped for the best during every trip, unwilling to split up and leave anyone out of the trio.

I watched Asher’s bus turn the corner, and I expected to see a book landing on his head or a kid up in his face taunting him. But I never see anything other than three kids hovering over cards. They play all the way to school without incident.

Asher is not the cool kid his younger brother strives to be. He marches to the beat of his decidedly less cool drum and does not care what anyone has to say about it. He is far braver than I ever was. But I still worry. Perhaps kids are more tolerant or less cruel or perhaps the worst is yet to come.

I watched the bus turn the corner and tried to convince myself that he’d be okay.

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10 Comments

  1. MSO is a more evolved community and we’re in a more enlightened time than when we grew up. Of course, there will always be bullies and ignoramuses, but you’re giving your kids a sense of self to rise above whatever taunts or saliva comes their way. That kiss on the head before he gets on the bus is more powerful than you realize. xo

  2. I cry. I cry because I see so much of myself in my middle child and I remember the teasing and I hope he doesn’t get what I used to get. I don’t want to ask, but I go by his smile every day. I think he’s happy.

  3. This is such a wonderful little insight. My kid is “different” too, but I never see him picked on or made fun of the way I know a kid like him would have been when I was his age. Not sure if it’s a function of time or place, but I’m grateful for it.

  4. I wish my son were so lucky. He just started Kindergarten and we are pulling him from the school due to a combination of bullying and his social immaturity. He only just turned 5, was still 4 when school started (thanks to being born just days before an Oct. 1st birthday cut-off), and that makes him the baby of the class. In addition to him being the youngest and smallest, he’s also got a very tender heart and his feelings are easily hurt. If the bigger kids exclude him, take things from him, shove him down on the playground or smack him, he cries. They laugh. He cries some more. We’ve always joked that he’s my little clone and seeing what he’s going through breaks my heart to have further proof that he is. I never wanted him to go through the things I did. Especially not in Kindergarten. My compassionate, inquisitive little boy has been shutting down and asked me to not make him go back to school. We’ll just try again next year when he’s actually the same age as the other kids.

    • It hurts to see them suffer, and I am very sorry that Kindergarten was so painful for you all. I hope that another year is the answer and that this year proves to be a hiccup in an overall successful academic experience.

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