Michael had an awesome bus stop a couple of years ago, when he first started riding the bus to school. It was awesome because it was just up the street and across on the corner, sandwiched between the entrances to the two cul-de-sacs there. There was something friendly and welcoming about that bus stop; Michael had a decent rapport with the six other kids there.
Then the school district transportation department decided that Michael would be better served at a different bus stop. The one down the street, where no fewer than twenty kids drop their backpacks in line and run around like wild weasels. This bus stop did not feel welcoming or friendly.
So this year I’m driving Michael to school. It’s on my way to work, mostly, and it doesn’t make me late, much.
It’s just another time we can talk and I can coach him on being a boy. And potentially a man. We talk about all kinds of things, but usually whatever’s chief in his mind at the moment: worries, bullies, zombies, angry birds, chocolate, anatomy, and why there are some shows on Cartoon Network that are definitely off limits.
The school employs what parents of elementary kids know as the “Kiss And Drive” lane, in which a parent pulls up to the school in a particular lane, and without parking, lets their kid climb out and head off to school on their own. After a requisite goodbye action (wave, handshake, fist bump, etc) the parent is to drive off. Hopefully this happens quickly enough that the line can move fairly quickly and nobody gets blocked in.
For Michael, the requisite goodbye action is a hug and a kiss.
He unbuckles as we creep up to a stop, then he stands and gets on his backpack, gives a quick hug and kiss, and he’s out the door.
At least, that is how it started.
This evolved over the course of the year to a more lengthy process: don backpack, hug and kiss, feint to the door, then a “what the heck” expression as he comes around for another hug and kiss before stepping out.
And more recently it has added a third iteration to the hug and kiss process.
All of this extra display puts our car squarely in the category of “excessive hang time” and “unreasonable lane blockage”
At first, I was anxious about it. I can’t block traffic! Must get out quickly!
“Michael,” I’d say, “Let’s get on with it! We’re holding everyone up!”
He would persist in his routine, though, despite my urging. Every day he would do two or three Hug/Kiss/Repeat combos, sometimes followed by a Stand Outside And Wave.
Today at drop off, something broke loose in me.
I didn’t hurry him out. I let him show his affection as much as he wanted to. As much as he needed to.
The other drivers didn’t honk, they just quietly pulled out and around on my left and went past. Nobody was annoyed, nobody was put out. The world didn’t come to a standstill just because my kid wasn’t through with his separation routine.
As you make your way through each day, counting through items on your checklist and watching the clock tick, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the procedures, and miss the substance of the journey. As an engineer it’s difficult for me some times to realize that the reason I do the things that I do is to support the family that I love… but that there is more to it than the sum of the individual accomplishments.
Some times life really happens in the spaces in between, and that part shouldn’t be tossed out.