When we lived in Brooklyn the most stressful part of the day was, like for most families, the morning. Getting Benjamin up at 6am, dressing, comforting him through seizures, medicating, and strapping him into his wheelchair in time for his 7am bus was like running a marathon every day. We also had to wait for his transportation nurse who had her own struggles with parking.
Those of us from Brooklyn can write pages about parking problems, and the overall fun of driving in a crowded city with its less than patient fellow commuters. I can tell you how little I appreciated drivers who honked at Benjamin’s school bus in the morning. It takes time to carry a child in a wheelchair down the front steps, load him onto the bus lift, and tie down his chair. It’s a drag to wait. Sorry. Except, I wasn’t sorry and I was sure to wear my very best Brooklyn Too bad for you face as I stared down the piece of work leaning on the car horn.
So when it became obvious that Sebastian could no longer attend our neighborhood school and would also need to be transported on a small bus, I was devastated. It’s strange. I know. I imagine to most people this seems like such an insignificant issue. But the thought of having two buses pulling up to take my two boys to schools out of our neighborhood was more than I wanted to bear. Those little school buses symbolized the intolerance, segregation, and general lack of belonging we had come to live with.
Of course when we moved to the suburbs, we didn’t have to deal with the traffic issues. Having two buses picking up the boys and taking them to their nearby schools became a matter of simple routine. My mornings are still hectic but Benjamin’s bus doesn’t show up until 8:10 now, and Sebastian has loved riding on the small bus. It was smooth sailing for six years.
Last year, when Sebastian started middle school, I grew a little less fond of the small bus again. He has grown independent and reliable in so many ways. I questioned his need for door-to-door transportation. Fortunately, he’s no longer “a runner.” Ok, he does cross country at school, but he doesn’t wander off. (If you’re in need of resources to prevent a child with autism from wandering look here and here.)
Parenting Benjamin taught me about the need to micromanage everything. I often feel like a helicopter parent, but I am trying to allow myself to recognize Sebastian’s emerging capabilities. I try to follow the practices I learned in my years as a special educator. I set goals (for both of us), and break them down into manageable steps. I enlist the help of Sebastian’s teachers and therapists to create reasonable plans with appropriate support. Then, I work to get out of his way so he can continue maturing. He has enough challenges. I don’t want to be the one creating barriers for him.
Getting out of his way is proving to be the single hardest part of parenting. There are so many things I don’t feel ready to allow him to attempt, but it’s not about me. I won’t be here forever and Sebastian needs to learn how to advocate for himself to the best of his abilities.
After careful planning and preparation, last week we celebrated Sebastian’s last day on a small bus. It might seem like a little thing, but it’s something I barely dared to dream about. He’s riding to our neighborhood school with all the other middle schoolers. I’m proud of him.
More importantly, he’s proud of himself.