IMG_3572My babies ride the short bus, yep – the short bus.  Like myself, you may have snickered when you heard those words as a child.  I remember having visions of seeing spastic kids, wearing oversized helmets, bashing their heads into the windows, while hearing random moans and screams seeping out from inside their brightly colored, length impaired transportation.  Never, in all my 30 years, did I picture even having children, much less rolling them onto a lift, strapping them down and shipping them off to school on the short bus.

And now I don’t know what I’d do without it.

My oldest son, Jett, while in kindergarten, rode the regular bus every day.  He had just been relieved of his Autism IEP (Individual Education Plan) and was entering Kindergarten just like anyone else.  Every day he would come home, beaming about the school day but tell us that he hated going to school, he hated those mean boys, they hit him and he never wanted to ride the bus again.

I freaked out.  I spewed endless obscenities to my husband and mother-in-law and then begrudgingly centered myself just long enough to calmly discuss the situation with the bus driver.  She assured me that she knew exactly who the troublemakers were.  She would simply move Jett’s seat to the front.  Oh yes – the dorky, kiss-up, hand holding front, but I didn’t care.  I just wanted him safe, happy and delivered to school unharmed. Dorky or not, this was my son and he deserved to get to kindergarten without having to stress himself out for the twenty minutes it would take to get him there.

Well, that didn’t work.  A driver can’t see everything.  Even if these boys couldn’t touch his person they were still touching his heart – and crushing it daily.  Words are weapons.  I did the unthinkable.  I stepped up onto the bus.  I played it off as a quick, “Hello, how are you doing?” to the bus driver, – but in actuality I just needed enough time to take a long hard stare around the crowded cabin and let ‘those boys’ know that Momma Bear, although small in stature, was on the prowl and itching to defend.

The following year, my son Dane, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, was scheduled to enter school as a mainstream kindergartener.  In a wheelchair, Dane had no choice but to go to school on the handicap accessible ‘short bus’.  Jett was deservedly moving on to the first grade.  I quickly called the school to ask if Jett could ride the same ‘short bus’ since they were attending the same school and it would be coming here to pick-up Dane anyway.  They were happy to put Jett on the same bus.  My heart and soul breathed an inexplicable sigh of relief.

Coming clean, we live up against a mountain.  The short bus comes to our door.  To catch the regular bus I had to drive my older son Jett to the end of the VERY long lane, every day, made much longer when the temperatures dipped below freezing and the rain beat down upon Jett’s collapsing umbrella and oversized yellow rain slicker.  Sometimes we made it.  Sometimes we didn’t.  Every time I shuddered at the thought of letting go of his hand knowing he had to take those three giant steps up into the lion’s den – the place that bullies go to hone their meanness on the littlest of little guys that want nothing more than to just get to school, throw off that slicker and happily empty out the contents of their crayon box.

So yes, this year, given the choice, I asked for both of my children to ride the short bus.  My eyes and my humanity have found a happy place where I see the path without judging the transportation.  I hope, given my children’s unique situation, that they learn to do the same, before hitting 40, and before society tells them that hearing the words ‘short bus’ should make them giggle.