I think driving school buses is training me to parent in those unusual situations you can't fully anticipate. At least I hope there's some transference from one situation to the other. With my primary responsibility being to get these kids safely home in a timely manner, It's often challenging to respond to some of their concerns as quickly as I need to but still be sensitive and fair. I can imagine that parenting, especially with multiple children, will demand similarly expedient, on-the-ball responses.
Everyday the younger kids say things like, "Billy said the B-word!" or "Katrina stuck her tongue out at me." I'm getting better at quickly defusing these standard situations but I still get thrown for a loop on a regular basis with more bizarre comments and situations.
A few weeks ago, a scrawny 11-year-old decked in camouflage was riddling me with adultish clichés like, "It's been really rainy this week, huh?" and "The flu bug is really gettin' around these days." Then, he was quiet for a while--perhaps he ran out of stereotypical small-talk topics. Finally, out of the blue, he says:
"I have huge tonsils."
Yesterday, most of the kids were loaded on the bus already and we were just waiting for our departure time when the sweetest little kindergarten girl walks up to me and says, "Bus driver, Julie is sad."
Me: "Why is she sad?"
Little Girl: "Here." She grabs my hand. "Come with me."
We walk down the aisle hand in hand.
Little Girl: "Tina told Julie she wasn't her friend any more."
How do you deal with this!? I would not make a good kindergarten teacher.
Later, mid-drive with the same wee ones, amidst the uproar of 3 o'clock juveniles, I hear what sounds like tiny English-speaking kittens. Some of them, because there's a placard up front inscribed with their previous driver's name, are calling me "Jim." The others are just saying "bus driver." I look in my rearview mirror and single out one of the smallest kittens who looks like she's about to cry.
Me: What's wrong?
Teary-eyed Kitten: Megan says she won't let me look at her imaginary guinea pig.
I am dead serious. She said this.
Me: Her imaginary guinea pig??
TEK: Yeah, she won't let me look at it.
Completely baffled that someone would shed real tears over an imaginary guinea pig and seeing what I thought was a fairly simple solution I told her that she should have an imaginary guinea pig too. I couldn't hear her response. I hope I didn't add to her sorrow.