I naively waved goodbye as my oldest daughter hopped on the big yellow bus to go to kindergarten. I watched as it seemed to swallow up my baby. As the bus drove away, I could see the sixth grade girls in the back seat with their low rise jeans, eyeshadow and bras. Scary.
Each morning Sarah was excited to get on the bus. Each afternoon, I’d meet the bus, bursting with curiosity and anxious to know what she did in her hours apart from me.
She was barely out the door before I’d start rattling off the questions. “Hi sweetie, what did you do at school? Who did you play with? How was your day?”
“Good,” she’d mumble, heading for the snack drawer. This was not enough of an answer for an inquisitive, hovering mother like me.
"Did you have fun? Did you learn anything new?" I’d ask, thinking that she’d soon be reading novels on her own or doing multiplication or something.
“No,” she’d say and run outside to play. I’d stand there thinking wondering about the blank hours in her life. What did she do? How did she behave? Who are her new friends? Who was she apart from me? Who was I apart from her?
After a week and a half, the exchange was getting routine, monotonous even. One Friday, the breakthrough finally came. "Did you learn anything new?" I asked without much hope. To my surprise she said yes.
I zoomed in closer. My mothering instincts were primed, I was finally going to hear about what happened at school.
“Guess what I learned, Mom. I learned how to make a fart noise,” she announced proudly.
What? Did I hear her right? I stood there dumbfounded.
“Anthony taught me how to make a fart noise. Watch.”
At this point she bent her arm and blew into the crook of her elbow for a fart noise. Sure enough, the most important thing she learned in the first few weeks of school was how to make a fart noise. I can't believe I didn't teach her that before she got on the bus.