Quack, says the Mama Duck – erm, Bus….

It’s that time of year again…back to school. Now, most of us have been ‘back to school’ for a week already, however the wee, tiny kindergartners have not. Yet. You see, things are vastly different now from way back when I rode my dinosaur to school on the first day of kindergarten.

Back then a five year old was deemed old enough to cope with being separated from Mom to spend every morning – or afternoon as the case may be – in a classroom with a group of other five year olds. We were tossed in at the deep end, so to speak, and we survived. Well, most of us did. My ex-husband tells a story of his first day of kindergarten when his parents lived in an apartment building across from the school. When the teacher released them onto the playground for recess, he assumed he was done, and could go home. So he did. Imagine his mom’s surprise when he showed up at the door at 10:15. Needless to say, she turned him right around and marched him back to school before the teacher even knew he was missing.

That wouldn’t happen today, no sir, not a chance! Kindergartners are deemed much too delicate to cope with the rigors of being tossed into a full schedule of school right off. No, we have to ease them into it with what is called “graduated entry”. During the first week, each child goes to school with their parents for a twenty minute orientation session in the kindergarten room with the teacher. That takes several days to get through all the kids. Then they attend for one day, but only with half the class. Finally, about a week and a half in, they get to begin their regular schedule. But wait! They still need a “bus orientation” session before they can possibly ride the big, yellow monster! So most parents opt to drive the tiny tots to school until they have been properly introduced to the bus. Most, but not all.

This morning was the first ‘real’ day of kindergarten. I didn’t expect to see many new little ones, since bus orientation hasn’t happened yet. So imagine my shock as I turned the corner to my first stop to see a tripod and video camera recording my arrival! And there at the stop was a brand new little kindergarten girl, all dressed in pink, clinging to Mommy’s hand, fuzzy critter backpack nestled on her back. As she came towards the bus, Daddy called to her to look back and wave bye-bye at the camera, which she did. As little Hennesey (seriously!) settled into the front seat, Mom told me she and Dad would be following the bus to school. Not a problem, that’s happened before. So off we went, me in my big yellow bus, with Hennesey singing happily in the front seat, and Mom and Dad trailing behind in a tan SUV.

At the very next stop I met Kyla, another brand new kindergartner all dressed in pink, clutching Mommy’s hand – well, the hand that didn’t have the camera whirring to record Kyla’s first bus ride for posterity. As Kyla was settling herself across from Hennesey, who was still singing, Mom told me she and Grandma would be following the bus to school. Um, ok, see that tan SUV? Follow it. So off we went, me in my big yellow bus, with Kyla looking confusedly at the singing Hennesey, and assorted Moms, Dad and Grandma trailing behind in a tan SUV and a little blue Sunbird.

Well, you know what’s coming, don’t you. At the very next stop I met little Jaidyn, all dressed in pink, arms wrapped tightly around Daddy’s leg, screaming her head off, tears pouring down her scrunched up little face. Daddy managed to peel her off his leg and carry her to the top step where she was immediately intrigued by Hennesey’s singing, stopped crying and plopped down into the seat next to Hennesey. Daddy leaned in closer to me. “Is it ok if we follow the bus to school today? I know you’re a great driver, but with her crying, we just want to be sure she’s ok.”
Sigh. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it would be better for Jaidyn if he DIDN’T follow the bus, so I smiled sweetly and said, “Sure! That’s not a problem at all. Just fall in line behind the tan SUV and the blue Sunbird.” And I pointed. He looked. And laughed. And as I pulled away from the stop, Daddy’s red car fell into place behind the blue Sunbird.

Luckily, that was the last of the brand new ones. I had a few returnees, but they are all old pros after a year and don’t need photos or an escort. As it was, I couldn’t help but laugh every time I rounded a corner and looked behind to see my collection of followers. Imagine if you will, a very large yellow Mama duck with a straggle of little ducklings behind her, and you have a good idea what we all looked like this morning. I think the funniest part was a pickup I do on a dead end street. It has a loop at the end so you can turn around to come out, and there I was looping around with my colourful flock cruising along behind, terrified they might lose me at any turn.

When we arrived at the school I asked two of my older girls to take charge of the kindergarten flock and make sure they got where they needed to be – safely inside the confines of the “kindergarten pen”, a secure, fenced area to keep the precious tots safe from the rambunctious activities of the older kids – and, although the school officials would never admit it, to also prevent any of them from making a break for home at the earliest opportunity. Apparently they learned their lesson from kids like my ex-husband….

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