Every day, I see him at the bus stop. He stands off to the side, away from the other kids. Despite his thick glasses, he still squints as he looks down the street. His father stands close by. Although he goes to the same school as the other children, he doesn’t ride the same bus as them. Something is different about him, but I can’t put my finger on it. Whatever it is, it almost makes me feel protective of him. But I don’t know him, and it would be improper to show too much concern. So I watch him from a distance to make sure he doesn’t get too close to the street, or that other kids aren’t making fun of him. I wish one of them would come over and say hello to him, but none of them ever do. I know his father is standing there, but I feel like my presence makes a difference. Of course, I have my own children to watch as well. They chat with their friends, and run around while waiting for the bus to arrive, just like the other children.
The little boy seems to want to join in the playful banter between the other children, but doesn’t know how. I am beginning to think that he is lacking in social skills, and wonder if he has Asperger’s Syndrome. The hypochondriac in me is always ready to make a diagnosis. I want to ask his father, but don’t know how to without being too forward. It doesn’t matter one way or another. All that matters is watching him, making sure he is okay. I know the protective instinct is unreasonable, but I can’t help it nonetheless. I breathe a sigh of relief every time I see him climb the steps of his bus without incident, and then turn my attention to my own children as they wait for their own bus. And I remind myself to be thankful. My kids can be a handful. If I were a drinker, I would probably be at the bus stop getting started on a bottle first thing in the morning. But I love them dearly. I am happy that they are healthy, and for the most part, normal.
I always wondered what a parent felt like when they discovered that something was different about their child. I remember the anxiety I felt for a close friend when she first realized her son was deaf. I remember how sad it made me that he would never know the sounds of birds singing, or water crashing into boulders at the waterfront. When another friend’s son was diagnosed with Autism, I felt weary just thinking about the long road she had ahead of her with regards to his development. But more than anything, I felt guilty. Guilty because my own children were in good health and not suffering from any disorder or handicap. Am I wrong for feeling guilty? I don’t wish hardships on my children. I just wish there were a way to take those hardships away from the people I know and love. And even the ones I don’t know so well.
Every day, I think about that little boy at the bus stop. I stand outside every afternoon and wait for my kids to arrive back home. The little boy’s bus comes first. He steps off, and walks straight to his father, who is waiting for him in the shade of a palm tree. My heart warms when I see him pull his son lovingly to his side and walks home with his arm around him. And I breathe a sigh of relief, because I know deep down that he is in good hands. When my kids step off of their bus, they run to me with smiles on their faces. I hug them close and savor the moment. Not even the smallest bit of happiness should be taken for granted.