With school in session, we see our neighbor, a first-grader, wait for the school bus with his mom each morning. When I pointed this out to my daughter, I offhandedly said, "You know, you'll ride the bus, too when you go to school."
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Up until this point, it never dawned on me that my not-quite 2 1/2-year-old was only interested in the buses for the aesthetic value of the shiny yellow vessels, and in no way associated herself with riding one or with going to school in one.
"What?" she asked incredulously.
"When you are old enough to go to school, the bus will come and pick you up just like it does for that little boy," I replied, still being nonchalant.
"And you'll go with me?" she asked, a hint of fear in her tiny voice.
I could practically feel my heart break in two as I stopped trying to do five other things and turned to concentrate fully on her words.
"No," I replied, as soothingly as I could, looking at her and blinking back my own tears and trying to keep my voice from breaking. "Mommy can't go to school with you."
Her big blue eyes were rich with concern as she paused for a moment and said, "But you will be back, Mommy?"
Asking me if I "will be back," is a common question lately, often asked when I must leave her at a substitute baby-sitter's home, or at any time when I go away and she's a little worried about Mommy's return.
A smile crossed my lips as I replied, "Yes, of course, honey. You will get off the bus after school and I will be there just like I will when the bus comes for you in the morning."
That quickly, all concern disappeared from her little face, as she casually said, "OK," and took off to go back to playing.
I didn't recover nearly as quickly, as I reflected on how something so mundane in my mind could have caused my daughter so much anxiety. Over the next several days, I pondered everything from how will I ever send her to school in three years, to how will she do when going to school on her own, and the list goes on. And on.
So I was more than a little taken aback at her reaction the next time she spotted a school bus. "Look, Mommy! I will ride a school bus to school on Saturday, and then I'll be back!"
"Huh?" I thought. Well that was a quick switch. Obviously, she has her facts a little off, but her point was conveyed. She was ready to ready to go to school — alone, but clearly she was coming back home.
I was relieved, somewhat. It seemed like there was one less thing I as a parent would have to worry about, at least for now. My daughter was ready to get on the school bus, and go to school. And return. What's not to love about that?
My tranquility was interrupted again, a few days later, when she announced she was going to school and play all day.
Her first day of school will be here sooner than I want it to be, but it's a good thing we still have some time for clarification before she embarks on that shiny yellow bus and heads to school.
First-time mother Amy Dulebohn is a page designer and feature writer at The Herald-Mail. Her email address is email@example.com.