There’s always that one bus stop mom. She’s never late – in the morning or afternoon. She knows the bus drivers’ names and makes them cookies at Christmas. She remembers the bus number. She knows who to call when if it’s running behind or the schedule has changed. She always has her hair and makeup done and her clothes look like they were picked out the night before. She’s fancy and beautiful and perfect.
For the record. I’m not that one. I’m the other one. See, I only came to bus stop reluctantly in the first place. For the first half of my first daughter’s kindergarten year, I was fairly certain the bus was where kids went to deal drugs and sell black market stereo equipment. There was no way I was letting my baby ride in a rolling drug den, so I started the year off driving her in and picking her up every day. But by the middle of her second semester, I was approximately 19 ½ months pregnant with my third daughter and had a three-year-old at home who was testing my will to live. By late March, I was 50 different kinds of done.
And so the bus it was. How hard could it be? After all, the bus stop was, quite literally, two houses down from mine. All I had to do was get the kid ready, walk her about 500 yards, watch her climb on and voila. She would magically appear in the same spot about seven hours later.
What I did not factor in, however, was the social implications of the neighborhood bus stop. Now, you have to know that I am not a morning person. In fact, I am not really a mid-morning or early afternoon person, either. I’m more of a “it’s late afternoon…let’s get ready and face the day” kind of girl. When I drove to school, all I had to do was grab some coffee and go. I mean, I could do it in my slippers. Ok, fine…and my pajamas. If I put a sweatshirt or jacket on, I looked like everyone else from the mid-torso up. No one had to know what was going on near the gas pedal.
But the bus stop created a new dynamic – one in which I had to find clothing that was a) not held up by a drawstring, b) not my husband’s old workout shirt from his college football days, and c) not slippers. This seriously limited my morning options. The end result was that, despite being the closest family to the bus stop, we were usually the last to arrive. In fact, there were days in subsequent years that we actually missed the bus. From two doors down.
I would like to say that it was my kids’ fault. But it was usually a result of me frantically searching for clothes to wear that I deemed bus stop appropriate. I suppose this is the part where I should mention my fellow bus stop companions. These were suburban moms. And they were amazing. They drove mini-vans like a boss. They were members of the PTA. They volunteered for all of the class parties. They actually wore outfits, by which I mean items of clothing that looked like they were intended to be worn together. I had plenty of outfits, too. I just never managed to find the parts that actually went together. So I would usually roll up to the bus stop in capri pants and a flannel button up with a mug of coffee in my hand that would slosh as I ran – usually right down the front of my flannel. These women impressed me, and if I’m honest, intimidated me more than just a little.
I want to say that things got better with time. But it’s really just been a slow evolution back to my true self. There were years where I would go out in yoga pants and tennis shoes so that it looked like I was getting ready to go straight to the gym or on a jog as soon as I left the bus stop. Occasionally, the other mothers would give me approving, yet slightly jealous looks, as if to imply that they, too, would be going to the gym if only they didn’t have a PTA event to get to. What they didn’t know is that I had slept in the yoga pants. I only stopped this when I figured it was obvious that I had been wearing the same “workout” clothes for two weeks straight.
The thing is, as parents, we tend to be a bit…well…judgmental of other parents. I read an article not too long ago talking about moms like me – the ones that show up at the bus or school drop-off line with a messy bun, last night’s mascara and pajama pants. The premise of the article was that it doesn’t take much to make yourself presentable. The author claimed that a little bit of self-respect goes a long way and that the least you could do is get dressed in the morning before going out to face the world. For the most part, I agree. And I do make myself presentable for most occasions. But mornings are still mine. I have my own routines. I have my coffee. I have time with my daughters while we go over last-minute study guides and make lunches together. We talk about the day while everyone is grabbing breakfast. I could probably stand to get up earlier and give myself some “getting ready” time. But with kids at different schools with different start times, we already have alarm clocks going off before the sun comes up. The point is, this is my life and a perfect morning outfit is not part of it.
I learned a long time ago that judging other parents for their choices is a slippery slope that is not worth going down. You never know what is going on behind closed doors. And that mom who is doing all she can to make it to the bus – pajamas or otherwise – might just have an interesting story to tell. Or she might just really like her pajamas. The point is, it doesn’t matter. We’re all here doing the same thing – trying to get these kids to adulthood with a minimal amount of disaster.
Now that my third and final daughter is a bus rider, I no longer believe there are drugs on the bus. (I now know it’s where kids plot crimes and try out new curse words.) That being said, I am so grateful for that big yellow lifesaver that rolls up every morning to take my child away. We’re still usually running just a little bit late. I still find myself lurching out the door every morning, sloshing coffee down the front of the shirt I slept in. And there’s still that mom that looks perfectly coiffed and ready to solve the PTA’s problems armed with nothing more than a stylish cardigan and a tray of homemade cupcakes. I applaud her, as I always have. Truth be told, I’m more than a little envious of her ability to make it all look so easy when I know it absolutely isn’t. But, these days, I don’t pretend that I’m anything other than what I am. If I show up at the bus stop in my pajama pants, I make no apologies. (Hahaha… “if” I show up in my pajama pants.) This is me. I’m still a good mom. I make sure my kids have everything they need, even if they are sometimes still eating their breakfast while we wait for the bus to arrive.
I like to think that a time will come when getting dressed doesn’t involve grabbing a sweatshirt from the pile on my closet floor. But in the meantime, I truly believe we are all doing the best we can. For the record, my daughters haven’t missed the bus yet this year. And I, for one, just got some new pajama pants that I can’t wait to show off.