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Challenge: Stretched Too Thin

What putting my daughter on the wrong school bus taught me about guilt and grace

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Behold, the story of my greatest moment of mom shame.

When my oldest had her first day at the intermediate school (grades 5/6) as a fifth grader I accidentally put her on the wrong school bus, the one that went to the high school.

For a solid 10 minutes, I was none the wiser.

I had 5 kids 10 and under and for the first time one of my kids had graduated from the elementary school with a late start time to the intermediate school with an early start time.

So I got her up and ready bright and early took her pictures and put her on the early bus.

It somehow escaped me that there were TWO early buses. The earliest went the high school and the one 10 minutes after that went to the intermediate school.


I was taking pictures of the elementary crew in the front yard when I saw that second early bus drive by. I went cold all over.

I screamed, and since I am oh so good in a crisis, burst into sobs. I nonsensically attempted to explain my error to my husband as I crammed my feet into shoes while also running out the door and trying to pull a hoodie on over my pj’s. I jumped into the van to somehow track down the bus and pluck my child from it.

I imagined how scared she was.

I had no idea what she would do, this clearly wasn’t a scenario I had predicted. There had been no "what to do if you are on a bus with teenagers going to a place you've never been" discussion.

I called my go-to BFF and she tried to calm me as I drove, assuring me wherever she ended up she would be safe and also arming me with the game-changing information that the high school buses stopped at the middle school first.

I changed course and careened into the middle school parking lot just as kids were disembarking the buses.

I flew out of my van, ran across the parking lot and took the first deep breath I had taken since it all began.

My sweet little 10-year-old was walking toward me. She had gotten off the bus and was going to head to the office but then spotted me.

Her mother still in her pj’s. Ready to smother her in a hug and drown her in tears of guilt.

Needless to say, she did a much better job than I did holding it all together.

“Just walk to the van mom. NO. DO NOT hug me. Just get in the van,” my cool cucumber told me.

I did just that, dripping with the sweat of relief and regret. When we were both seated that same cool cucumber burst into tears.

“MOM! I was so scared. And there were boys with BEARDS on my bus!” she told me through her own sobs.

I apologized for the entirety of the drive to her intermediate school where my just reward was doing the walk of shame into the 5th grade hallway to deliver my by now late daughter to her classroom.

Did I mention she goes to school at the same school where I work?

Two humiliating birds, one stone.

I bring you this story not only to make you feel way, way, way better about your parenting, but also for this reason.

Sometimes we will flat out steer our kids wrong in life.

We might be tired or confused or uninformed or overconfident or just really, really sleep deprived.

We will be so sure we know what’s right until we realize they are just in the wrong direction altogether.

And all we can do is apologize and try harder next time. And teach them how to course correct when you find yourself on the wrong path.

We learn that even if we are careful, thoughtful parents we are also just human. And luckily our kids are pretty resilient.

For that matter, so are we.

We will try our best, mess up sometimes, say we’re sorry, rinse, repeat for the duration I am afraid.

And their hearts are so forgiving, especially if we model forgiveness when they are also human.

Our mistakes and a heaping dose of grace free us up to forgive each other, learn from and even laugh at our least after a few years and successful bus trips have gone by.

So tonight, if you are worrying over your failures, offer yourself a little bit of this grace. Forgive those around you. And maybe double check that bus schedule each school year just in case.

{Above is actual photo of said child right before she encountered boys with beards.}

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