Monday, June 15, 2015

The Bus

So Ethan's been taking the bus home from school this year for the first time, and it's been a bit of a bumpy ride.

While some of his teachers last year thought the bus would be a good "social opportunity" for him, I had my doubts from the start. To their defense, the bus HAS been a good social opportunity: which also means it's exposed some of Ethan's social difficulties.

Our first issue came back a while ago when we made the mistake at home of teasing Anna about some of her "crushes." It was all good-natured fun, but we didn't realize Ethan was really paying attention until we started to hear about him calling a certain girl on the bus his "girlfriend." Then he mentioned he kept trying to talk to her, but another boy kept trying to "protect" her from him.

And so we put a lid on all of the girlfriend talk and I had a nice little conversation with him about respecting boundaries. I thought everything was well and good...until a few months later, when the principal called to say that boy from the bus claimed Ethan said he was going to kiss his girlfriend on the last day of school.

We had another conversation about all of this, and a few weeks later when I checked in with Ethan he told me now that he was not bothering the girl anymore, this same "friend" on the bus who was supposedly so concerned about the girl was now constantly trying to MAKE him bother her. Apparently this had been a great source of entertainment for him, and now he was bored.

So then I got on the phone with the principal again, because Mama Bear's gotta stick up for her kid.

There was the day another boy got mad and apparently started punching him a little because he'd asked to sit where Ethan was sitting, and since Ethan didn't want him to he just ignored him. "But mama, that's all I could do is ignore him," he said, obviously repeating a rule he'd heard somewhere. Of course, he forgot the part about acknowledging the person's request first.

Last week Ethan had a different bus driver, and one day he pulled up and beckoned me over to the bus. He proceeded to rip into Ethan in front of three other wide-mouth little kiddos, about how they were talking about "sex" and that my son had started it.

My jaw almost dropped to the ground because I'm not sure Ethan has ever heard the word, and I knew, I just KNEW, there was no way he was spearheading a conversation about sex in the way the bus driver thought.

We got back up to the house and I sternly asked Ethan what was going on. "Someone said this girl went to the principal for saying a bad word," he explained. "So I asked which bad word. I said, 'Was it the S word?" That's what I said. I don't even know what sex is," he said matter-of-factly, kind of rolling his eyes. "That's not a bad word!"

I could picture it all laid out in front of me. Ethan asking if the bad word was the "S" word (thanks to our bad words conversations) and some other kid thinking he was talking about sex.

I could see how already, it is very, very easy for Ethan to be misunderstood. Even by bus drivers.

The worst was the other day. Ethan got off the bus and was sitting on the front steps with me as I asked him how things were going on the bus.

"People are always telling me be quiet, or don't talk to me," he said.

I tried to get out of him why, who, when, and most importantly, what had he been saying, when that happened? He told me he couldn't remember.

In the next breath he was telling me sometimes some of the kids said that to other kids on the bus, too, not just him. And then he asked for Wii and didn't look traumatized, but still -- it broke my heart a little.

I thought of the few years of my school career that I took the bus...of cool kids in the back and people snickering at me as I sat hunched with a book or scribbling furiously in the "book" I wanted to publish someday. I hated the bus.

Today our plan is for him to pay very close attention to when the kids say "be quiet" and report back to me.

No matter what happens or doesn't happen, I'm feeling very relieved right now that he only has five more days to ride the darned thing until summer freedom arrives.

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