The Bus Can Wait
There was a little flurry of consternation when he saw Jim loading my parents' suitcases in the black car so he could drive them to the airport for a 10am flight. On Sunday night, Charlie had carried the suitcases down the stairs and placed them on the floor before going up to bed. Don't get me wrong: Charlie is extremely fond of my parents. But his attachment to them has always meant he struggles with their arrival and leaving. We figured he had brought down the suitcases on Sunday as he knew Monday was coming and, with it, a return to school and the usual order of things.
But Charlie had Monday off (and it was still 90 degrees plus). And there was still Tuesday. We wondered if maybe Charlie had been mentally preparing himself for my parents to leave and therefore brought down the suitcases, and then they were still here on Monday and Tuesday—-a wonderful, pleasurable thing, but not what he had been expecting.
After we got back from our walk on Wednesday, we all said our good-byes and Charlie got in the car. He called out 'give, give' and 'gray' to me, indicating my parents' suitcases. We quickly explained that Gong Gong and Po Po need their suitcases and we said our final good-byes and off we went to school.
Phil Schaap came on before too long and Charlie was all smiles when we pulled into the entranceway to his school. A young man who'd been an aide when Charlie started at the center was standing with a clipboard and a phone at the front; we exchanged waves. Little yellow schoolbuses, minivan-buses, and a car or two were pulling in or, in some cases, driving around the parking lot in search of (I suspected) where to drop of their charges. I saw teachers and aides waiting under the breezeway. I pulled up to the doors where Charlie usually goes in. An aide we didn't know—not unusual for the summer staff to include many who don't work at the school during the regular year—appeared. Charlie got out and said bye and into school he went.
He had a good day followed by a mostly uneventful afternoon. We suspected his stomach was acting up; at the end of both a bike ride and a walk, Charlie started moaning some and peddling really really fast, or sprinting. In the early evening, out of the blue (though I'm sure this didn't seem to be the case from his perspective; something was clearly bothering him) Charlie emptied a cabinet of plastic dishes and some books and papers ended up in a rather unwieldy non-arrangement on the floor. We waited a bit until things had settled and cleaned up. The rest of Wednesday unfurled very quietly, with Charlie asking for one last walk that Jim was happy to oblige him with.
Keeping Tuesday's agitation, not to mention the different staff in the summer, in mind, Jim and I have decided to wait a bit before having Charlie take the bus home. As his school year ended, we had often mentioned that we'd like to prepare him for this with a social story at the least but somehow—it was the end of the school year—nothing ended up getting planned. I kept getting the sense that the thought was, Charlei would just get on the bus when ESY started and come home but Jim and I, knowing our boy as we do, have not been feeling so sure.
Charlie's ride will be 35-40 minutes, the longest ride from school to home he has ever had. Too, he won't just be riding the bus in our town. The Big Autism Center is several towns away, in a different county. And, too, Charlie has the rather unusual circumstance of knowing the route between our town and the BAC extremely well, as his Jim's parents lived in the town right next to the BAC and Charlie has spent much of his life traveling back and forth between the towns. Indeed, we used to live in that very same town as Charlie's grandparents; our apartment was only about five minutes from the BAC. For whatever reason, Charlie has sometimes had trouble on the most direct route that lies between the BAC and our current town. All of which isn't that easy to communicate to a bus driver who might be new for the summer and who has to keep in mind the needs of all the other children on the bus.
Maybe things will be completely different for Charlie as he'll be on a schoolbus.
Maybe Charlie has gotten over having trouble with the route.
Maybe Charlie is tired of going home with his parents and would rather be in the bus with his peers.
But a bus ride is one of those things we just can't know some things about. So waiting till Charlie is settled in summer school, and till we've met with his teacher and behaviorist to (1) work out a plan to transition him to riding the bus and (2) troubleshoot about what to do if something goes wrong—this just seems best. I've been imagining worst-case scenarios (Charlie getting into all-out neurological storm mode on the bus on the highway and—then what?) and, well, we'd like them to stay in the imaginary realm rather finding ourselves fielding a phone call describing things no one would want to hear.
Maybe we're over-reacting and over-preparing and being over-protective.
I'm all right with being 'that kind' of parent, and Jim too, for sure.