Seatbelt of Shame

I peeked into the children’s bedroom before sitting down on the sofa next to my husband, Arnie. I said, “The girls went to sleep quickly tonight. Going for that long walk with me this afternoon in the cool, brisk air tired them out.”

Arnie said, “The weather today was more like it should be at the end of September. There was a chill of fall in the air and it’s only the beginning of August!”

I shrugged. “In a few days it’ll probably be as warm as July. Anyway, school will be starting in a few weeks.”

“That reminds me, did you call the bus company?” my husband wondered. “The lady at the kindergarten orientation meeting seemed to think Tammie would need to ride on a bus for the handicapped.”

I rolled my eyes before answering, “I called about getting her enrolled on the bus for handicapped children and was yelled at. The man I talked to was very indignant. I don’t know what his problem was. He seemed to think I was asking for something out of the ordinary or unnecessary. I tried explaining to him the lady at the kindergarten orientation suggested that I call…he just yelled at me in a most unprofessional manner! I guess he was having a bad day.”

Tammie, our five-year-old daughter wore full leg braces that didn’t allow her knees to bend. Her arms were only elbow length long and she had an opening in her throat to help her breathe. In addition to all of this, Tammie had a very low platelet level in her blood, giving her the potential to bleed dangerously from even small bumps and cuts. With starting school, we were very afraid to put her on a regular bus where she could be bumped and pushed around.

SONY DSC“She’ll have to ride the regular kindergarten bus.” I concluded.

Arnie asked, “Do buses have seat belts? Mine didn’t when I went to school. What’s to keep Tammie from falling forward if the bus were to suddenly stop? Her arms aren’t long enough to reach out and stop herself from falling off the seat or hitting her head on the seat ahead of her!”

“I talked to the lady who will be driving the kindergarten bus that Tammie will be riding.” I said. “She told me that there’s a Velcro lap belt in the front seat of the bus. She’ll strap Tammie in when she rides.”

Feeling as if we’d provided enough protection for our little girl, we proudly helped our daughter get on the regular school bus as school started. One day the kindergarten bus Tammie rode was struck by a car from behind. It was a fender-bender type of accident. That night when Tammie told me about it, I didn’t think she was traumatized by the event. She said, “Mama, a lady in the car behind us was eating popcorn and didn’t notice the bus had stopped. Her car hit the back of my bus!”

When Tammie started first grade, we didn’t push for the bus company to continue using the Velcro seatbelt. She was older and seemed to understand how to brace herself for the starts and stops of a bus. We did have a small problem that year with bigger children running her down during bus transfers, though.

Recently I asked Tammie, who is now in her thirties, what she remembers about kindergarten. She immediately said, “On the school bus, they strapped me in the seatbelt of shame.”

Surprised, I said, “What are you talking about? That was for your protection!”

Tammie said, “On our school bus, if a kid was being naughty, they were made to sit in the front seat and wear the Velcro seatbelt. It was like the dog-cone of shame in the movie, ‘Up’.”

“What?” I questioned with surprise, “I didn’t know you felt that way!”

“I felt very ashamed.” Tammie admitted. “Not only that, but unsafe. I couldn’t get the Velcro undone by myself. When the popcorn-eating lady ran into my bus, I was the last kid to be evacuated. I was scared.”

Leaning back, I thought about how hard it is to know how another person feels, concluding with, “One person’s safety is another person’s shame!”

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