Every morning I listen for the sound of the bus, stopping for my young teenager. I hold off on my morning chores and busy myself in the kitchen, just to be near and hear it. And everyday, I peek through the rhododendron, that blocks the window, to watch her patiently waiting. And then I watch her cross the street. Confident, beautiful, strong and amazing, especially to me.
The last time she rode the bus was first or second grade. Then I would bundle up the pajama clad toddler (or two), and hustle out the kindergartener/preschooler and we would all stand together. We played games of guessing the color of the cars before they zoomed past. With my coffee in hand, I taught them hop scotch. The driveway, then, was more covered in chalk than black pavement. On rainy days, the bigger ones, all dressed for school, would huddle under an umbrella with me. Meanwhile, the littlest stomped in puddles till the water came up over the top of her tiny rain boots and soaked her feet. Occasionally we missed the bus, and then I would drive all three of them the three minutes to school. By the time the youngest was off to kindergarten, bus riding was no longer cool, or fun, or the easiest choice for our crazy, rushed, mornings. If I drove them the three minutes to school, it gave us more time in the morning to do three pairs of braids, and pack three sets of lunches.
Then came middle school: and early, (very early) mornings. Too early for me, really. She has handled them like a champ.
At thirteen, she gets up without a fuss, and dresses quickly in mature and stylish clothes. She comes downstairs within 30 minutes, (as I am barely stumbling out of bed), with hair done up, tasteful makeup on, nice clothes, and a plethora of bags. I make her a sandwich for lunch, but no longer sneak in little notes or silly surprises; it is easy to accidentally embarrass a middle schooler. As her father heads off to work, she and I have a quiet breakfast and chat about the days plans. It has become a time I look forward to everyday: connecting with my eldest, beautiful daughter. And then she is off to wait for the bus.
No longer are there screaming struggles of “nothing to wear!” Nor do I have to go upstairs 10 times to finally rouse her from the bed. Occasionally, I remind her to fill her water bottle for soccer/basketball/softball, butler she has it all together, ready. Instead, we have calm conversations about what she might want for lunch. Or she tells me the latest drama story of eighth grade. She sighs and harrumphs sometimes, not wanting to go to school or practice later; but don’t we all.
Once in a blue moon, she has a down morning. Where I can see she is barely holding it together. Something (that in the great scheme of life is usually nothing) has gotten under her skin and rubbed the wrong way. Perhaps she is physically exhausted due to her sports and extra dance classes, and she is feeling the strain in her muscles. Or sometimes she isn’t sure of a friendship and a turn that it has taken (or that she perceives it will take) and is questioning her place in middle school society. But still, we make it through and she pulls it together fabulously. Off she goes to wait for the bus, always leaving 5 minutes early, so she will be sure not to miss it.
With her ‘A Game’ on, she is gone. She is out the door, school bag, gym bag, sports bag, lunch box, water bottle and phone in hand. With a quick and final smile goodbye (or sometimes even a kiss if I am lucky), she strides to the end of the drive way. Her straight and strong back, her beautiful dancing posture, will be the last I will see of her until well into the afternoon. No looks back of sleepiness, sluggishness or sadness, or even another goodbye. She marches forth into the battle ground of middle school, prepared to fight the dragons of the day with courage and poise…my little girl is growing up and headed out to the middle of the road of life.