Anyway, I promised you last night that I would fill you in on the details as to how our daughter, Madison, ended up 2 miles from our house after school yesterday:
So, she said that after school let out, she asked a faculty member where she was supposed to go to get on her bus. She told him/her the route number and was instructed to stand at a specific spot at the bus pick-up location.
A few minutes later, she saw the bus pulling up to the ramp but the driver just continued driving through, never stopping to pick her up. She said there were other kids on the bus at that point, so she doesn't know if she was sent to the wrong pick-up location or what happened, but the bottom line was that she missed her bus.
She returned to the faculty member she had spoken to before and explained that the bus had driven off without her, and was told to get on another bus. I guess because the bus system was so chaotic on the first day of school, the bus drivers were instructed to take kids to their regular stops if they missed their intended buses (they were basically just putting kids on any available bus and having the bus drivers drive them to where they were supposed to be?).
She was also told; though, that it may not be her actual stop, but might be a mile or so off from where her usual stop is located? That is one thing I still don't fully understand. Did Madison misunderstand what she was told, or was she just so confused that she misconstrued the instructions? Either way, she went to the nearest bus and heard the bus driver asking kids what their cross streets were so they could be taken to where they needed to go.
This is another part that baffles my mind. Madison said she didn't know her cross streets (which she does. I think she was just so confused and freaked out by the chaos that she just shut down and couldn't think logically), so instead of just admitting as much to the bus driver, she hopped off that bus and went to the next one.
The bus driver of the new bus said he was going to a certain cross-street location that Madison thought sounded vaguely familiar, so that is the bus she chose to take. When the bus driver pulled up to the aforementioned stop, Madison got off the bus to look around and see if she recognized her surroundings (which she didn't). Before she could say anything to the bus driver; though, he closed the door behind her and drove off.
Upon hearing this, my first reaction was to become absolutely furious with her. I couldn't figure out why, if she didn't know where she was, she didn't just tell the bus driver, instead of getting off in some strange place, with no idea as to which direction she was even supposed to start walking. And why, when she missed the bus in the first place, did she not just call me immediately to come pick her up!
Her response broke my heart. She said that she had considered going to the office and calling me when she first missed the bus, but thought to herself, "I am a big girl now. I can handle this myself." Bless her heart for trying to be independent, but I was so frustrated at the fact that the whole thing could have been avoided had she just gone to the office instead of getting on that bus.
Anyway, the fact of the matter was that she was now stranded in some neighborhood that was completely unfamiliar to her. She had no water (and it was well over 105 degrees out yesterday at that time), no phone, and no idea where she was in relationship to the house (which, she actually ended up being in a neighborhood about 2 miles south of us), so she decided to just start walking until she either saw something she recognized or found a public place where she could go to use a phone.
She ended up walking about a half mile south to the next major street, and then turned right and headed west for another mile and a half or so. That particular neighborhood is mostly residential, so there weren't any businesses along the road anywhere until she got to a major intersection (after she had walked about two miles) and went into a business to use a phone.
The first place she went into said they didn't have a phone. I told her that she should have explained the situation to them and someone probably would have let her use their cell phone. It is what is is though, and at the risk of looking silly and completely out of control, she left and tried finding another business with a phone (poor kid).
The next place she went into was a bar, so she quickly turned around and left (although I am sure they would have let her use their phone as well). The third business; however, was next door in the same shopping center, and when she told them the situation, they offered her a chair to sit in, a glass of water and, of course, a telephone. That is where she was when she finally called me.
Though I am eternally grateful for the fact that she eventually made it home safely, I have a mix of emotions at this point about this whole ordeal. A part of me wants to call the Superintendant of the school district and file a complaint, or at least call and have a chat with the principal of her school. I do know that we, as parents (and Madison, as a middle schooler) are partly to blame for the events that transpired yesterday. Perhaps we didn't prepare her sufficiently for what to do if she ever missed the bus, and perhaps she should have just done the wise thing and asked for help from the very beginning.
Either way, one thing that Zach and I ARE grateful for in all of this is the fact that some serious delinquencies were brought to our attention; both on Madison's part AND ours. Thankfully, we got a wakeup call and still have the opportunity to make some changes before something more serious happens.
First of all, we know now that we need to help Madison to not only to be aware of her surroundings and become more familiar with our neighborhood, but we also need to let up a little more in general with regards to how much we shelter her - allow her to spread her wings a little and become more self-sufficient.
I am not going to lie. This is going to be very hard for me. I already had to fight the urge this morning to just pile the kids in the car and start driving her to and from school myself. I know if we give her this room to grow; though, she might not be so afraid to take control and won't shut down in the midst of a catastrophe again, but instead will have the coping skills necessary to think logically and minimize the damage if a similar situation should ever occur again.
We sat down with her last night and had a good heart to heart about some positive changes that need to take place. We talked about maybe taking her for bike rides in the neighborhood, with the sole purpose of familiarizing her with street names, and where things are located in relationship to our house. Maybe we'll even take her to a certain location (like the public library, which is only about 5 blocks away) and have her tell us how to get home from there.
I think it was definitely a testimony-building experience for her too. Maybe that's another positive consequence that can be attributed to this horrifically traumatic experience. She said that as she was walking away from the bus stop where she was dropped off, she didn't recognize anything in her surroundings and just kept praying that heavenly Father would guide her feet to safety. Thankfully, He did and she is home safe.
Man, being a parent is so stressful. I guess this is just another one of those curve balls that I was talking about once upon a time. Let's just pray that life doesn't throw us anymore like this one. ;)
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