The streak remains intact. Clean and unbroken. Impossibly consistent. My kids haven’t missed a yellow schoolbus ride to their school in 12 years. I swear it. This award-worthy achievement came under scrutiny this morning, however, as my 6th grader evidently cannot wrap his little mind around the scope of this beacon of pure perfection. He peppered me with, “Are you sure we’ve never missed the bus, ever? Like, never? You sure? Hmmm.”
The interrogation’s intensity — calling into question my punctuality and credibility — nearly broke me. My breathing grew shallow. My face froze in a familiar “There’s-no-credit-card-in-my-back-pocket-to-pay-for-all-these-bagged-groceries-and-Oh-God-look-at-that-huge-line-of-exasperated-shoppers-behind-me” expression.
Is it possible that I am mistaken? Have I overstated my case?
A ninety-percent bus stop success rate is admirable. Likely something Everett’s Head of School would point out in front of a couple hundred super-impressed parents at an upcoming All-School Assembly. Eighty-five percent probably means inclusion in a congratulatory remark in the next school newsletter.
Why did I feel the need to throw down the gauntlet and lay claim to supremacy? To risk snatching defeat from the jaws of easy victory?
Is it because I can’t bear the thought of losing yet another argument to my 11 year-old? Or because I resist any further chipping away at my eggshell-thin patina of parental invincibility? Or because, honestly and objectively, I fear I have achieved so little in my life that this feels like, well, a major achievement? All of these are true, at least in part, to be sure.
But mostly, my tight fists and their white knuckles clutch at the end of a rope; a fading connection between father and sons.
After all these years of harried, stressed, often argumentative sprints to the bus stop just around the corner, I realize now that our morning ritual will not last. I’ve begun the migration from numbly going through the motions of the daily schlep to recognizing the feeling of yet another schlep falling through my spread fingers. Looking down at my hand, holding far fewer schleps than those piled in the seemingly bottomless mound at my feet the day when my now 16 year-old scrambled up the kindergarten bus steps for the first time. So many years ago, suddenly.
There will come a time when 7:43am no longer jolts the adrenals, slowly receding back among all the other unremarkable minutes in a day. When no Beadling boy climbs those three black, rubberized steps that had seemed to shrink in size from one school year to the next. When no Beadling parent strains to glimpse through tinted windows a familiar, hat-wearing silhouette shuffling back through the rows in a southerly direction. When I look down to see that my hand is empty. When I am left only with my own, increasingly fleeting recollections, and a handful of iPhone photos hastily taken along the way.
But for now, the streak lives on.
Thanks for reading.