It’s me — Neil. You may remember me from such conversations as “€<%# off,” “leave my kid the %^?< alone,” and “are you $@&?ing kidding me?”
I’m sorry about those. Can we start over? We can? Good.
Go $@¥% yourself.
Oops, I guess I did it again.
enjoying enduring another typically chaotic morning. Ryan was moving too fast, yelling too loud, adding to the tension and apprehension we feel ahead of our upcoming appointment with the psychiatrist to discuss medication.
It was crazy, but it was manageable.
Veronica got Ryan out the door for the bus and I was getting ready to do the same when the universe decided to intervene, using its giant monkey wrench to turn the screws that drive my son’s worst fears.
Veronica called from the bus stop. She had to come home to do Riley’s hair. Riley has a school dance today and she’s very excited. We couldn’t send her with wet hair. I looked at my watch. I had an early meeting at work. If I went to wait with Ryan, making my train would be tight.
The sound of Veronica’s voice made the decision easy. Ryan was struggling to keep it together. He was fighting tears. The other kids at his stop were trying to help but it was a losing battle.
I jumped in the car and drive up to his stop, allowing Veronica to go home and assist Riley. When I arrived I saw my son in your clutches. You had him pacing nervously, chewing on his jacket collar and backpack straps. He was trying to blink back tears while asking continuously why the bus was late, if it would be the old driver (from September!!!!), if this meant it would also be late in the afternoon.
I did my best to calm him, but it was a losing battle. You already had him locked in your grasp and were going for the takedown. The other kids tried as well, particularly his one friend C. He told Ryan not to worry. He asked him to talk about the Sharks’ big win last night. He told him to think happy thoughts — like Corey Perry‘s (who plays for the rival Ducks) suspension.
An automated call came from the school. Buses were running 20 minutes late. No explanation. I told Ryan. This calmed him for a moment — but only a moment. Your grip was too strong. As soon as we passed the 20 minute mark from his regular pickup time, Ryan resumed his fretting, his pacing, his chewing. I began to make plans to drive him to school and forget about ever making it to work today.
Veronica called. She was finished with Riley’s hair and would take my place so I could race for the train. I made it — barely — but the image of what I left behind haunts me as the train rolls towards New York.
The bus eventually came. But it was a substitute bus and a substitute driver — two openings you will surely seize upon to make Ryan’s day miserable.
I can’t shake the sight of Ryan looking helpless and powerless to fight you off.
What gives you the right? You are worse than the worst schoolyard bully.
How dare you show up whenever you damn well please, seizing upon opportunities to exploit Ryan’s most vulnerable moments?
Go <#%$ yourself. Stay the &?!$ away from us.
PS: You didn’t win.
Ryan made it to school. I made it work. Riley will have her hair just the way she wants it at the dance. And when you seized upon my kid, you left an opening. An opening for all the other kids at the stop to show you what they are made of. They didn’t take the cowardly route of preying on his weakness. They stood up to you. A bunch of sixth-graders trying to help a fellow classmate. They didn’t make fun of him. They didn’t roll their eyes.
I get to take that memory with me as well. In time the other image will fade, but that one will remain.
So stick that in your pipe and smoke it. This isn’t over.