As I mentioned in a previous post, The School Decision, Kayla is now riding the regular bus to school. I think like with anything this will have its ups and downs.
The first day she came home on the bus it felt like some kind of milestone. Which was weird, because she's been riding a school bus, albeit the 'special needs' one, since she was 3 years old. She's no stranger to the bus... sometimes big, and sometimes, yes, the short bus. But it was a bit different. It was the bus the neighborhood kids ride, there is no aide, no seat belts, and no door-to-door service.
One thing I hadn't thought of in preparing Kayla for the regular bus was the door-to-door service. I drove her to school but told her she would be riding the bus home and that was it. When I was waiting for her at the bus stop I could see her in the window as the bus pulled up. Initially it didn't seem that she was making any move to get off the bus. She waved to me at the window and I told her to get up and get off the bus.
I realized later she has always been dropped off at her house. She wasn't at her house so she didn't think it was her stop. I had taken her to school that morning so she hadn't even boarded the bus at that bus stop to be familiar with departing at that location. Lack of thinking on my part!
So initially we've had mostly good results riding the bus. There was this one day though ...
As Kayla was in line to get off the bus I could see her turned around yelling to someone near the back of the bus. When she got off she was upset. She told me "That blue girl!" (which I'm guessing was her description of the girl's shirt. Instead of saying the girl wearing the blue shirt she became 'that blue girl'.) I asked her what happened with that girl and she was genuinely upset - not crying, but the pissed off kind of upset. She said she hit her and spit at her and took her book bag. I asked what she did when she took her book bag and Kayla said (I wish you could hear the sound of her voice as she explained this to me!) "It's not yours! It's mine!" She showed me how 'that blue girl' grabbed her arm and pulled her thumb back. I don't know the full story of what happened, I don't know if Kayla did something to annoy/irritate her, if Kayla had her book bag in the middle of the seat and the girl was moving it, if the girl was just playing and Kayla misinterpreted it. I should've asked the bus driver the next morning but I didn't because I figured she wouldn't have known what happened anyway since Kayla was sitting in the back of the bus. I tried to encourage Kayla not to sit back there anymore, but she seems to like to. There haven't been any more incidences, so hopefully that was isolated.
There is a girl, M, who is also 9 but in the 4th grade. A few days into riding the bus Kayla sat with M one morning. I was happy to see them sitting in the seat, smiling, chatting and both waving out the window to me.
Another morning it was raining as we were walking to the bus stop. Kayla and I were sharing an umbrella. Before we made it to the bus stop M ran up to us and said to Kayla, "Come on! Get under my umbrella! There's room for 2!" And they ran off the rest of the way to the bus stop. They crouched under the umbrella pretending to be turtles, and generally having a great time. At one point M mentioned having Kayla over for a tea party and sleep over.
My heart was happy. She was meeting neighborhood kids. She was accepted and included. This seemed like the beginning of a possible friendship. M was animated and generally happy to see and talk to Kayla in the mornings.
Then it started to taper off a bit. They sat together a few times, but the one time M didn't I could see how sad Kayla was watching M walk to the back of the bus. I can't expect M to be Kayla's new BFF and sit with her every day, but I did feel bad for Kayla feeling so sad about it.
Then there was something that happened just the other morning. J was now walking to the bus stop in the morning. She is actually in Kayla's class. Kayla said to J, "I sit with you on the bus!" J said ok. Kayla was excited to have someone else she knew on the bus; someone she could sit with. Isn't that what all kids want? Just a friendly face on the bus?
Well M heard this and shook her head vigorously at J, but J didn't see that. So M walked over to J, while Kayla was standing on the other side of her, and whispered in her ear. J looked uncomfortable and said 'Oh stop.' Admittedly I have no idea what M whispered to J, I couldn't hear her, but I'm willing to bet it had something to do with Kayla.
The bus pulled up and M grabbed J's hand and pulled her behind her to get on the bus with her. I have no doubt that for whatever reason, she didn't want J sitting with Kayla. Kayla ended up between them. M got on the bus first and I held my breath seeing how this would play out. M walked towards the back of the bus, Kayla stopped at a seat about in the middle... and J stopped and sat with Kayla. I was happy to see J followed through with sitting with Kayla despite whatever M said to try and convince her otherwise.
Does the cattiness and meanness really have to start this early? And why? I have no idea why M is all of a sudden acting this way when just last week she was so friendly to Kayla and talking about sleepovers.
I know things like this can and do happen to typical kids. I know Kayla could experience these situations even if she didn't have Down syndrome, but like any parent, you don't like to witness something like that happen to your child.
Kayla is generally a good kid with good intentions and a good heart. She's friends with everyone. She likes other kids. She likes to have friends. She isn't shy. She'll talk to anyone. I hate that she's experiencing someone who appears to be so wishy-washy.
So far Kayla seems to be holding her own though. I'm trying not to interfere too much and give Kayla some independence on how to handle this. I'm letting her make her decisions on where she wants to sit on the bus. I could encourage her to sit in the front near the bus driver where the younger kids sit, but she's old enough to sit where she wants and she seems to prefer the middle or the back.
No one ever said learning to let go and let your kid grow up and make choices and be independent would be easy. Or that it wouldn't hurt for them, or you, but we're figuring it out together. So far she still seems happy to be taking the bus and hasn't said she doesn't want to ride it, she hasn't come off the bus upset so we're going to stick with it and just hope there won't be too many other incidents.