Beth Shoemaker, stay-at-home mother of two grade schoolers, has seen her self-esteem rise and plummet since last August, when her children began taking the school bus home.
Beth stands at her corner for their drop-off each weekday afternoon. The school bus stop also happens to be at a busy intersection, where at least 3 other school buses pass before her son and daughter arrive. The other buses transport middle schoolers and high schoolers.
“The first week of school was great. I felt free, happy to regain some time for myself, and relieved to remember what it’s like to be a distinct individual. Not just ‘Mom,’ ” Beth states. “And when the high schoolers whistled at me through lowered windows as their bus blew past, I have to admit, it made me secretly smile. I told myself, ‘I still have it.’ “
Within a few weeks, however, the whistles evolved into cat calls and derogatory comments and gestures. “Around October a young man threw a pen out his window and it hit me in the eye. He shouted ‘Suck my Bic.’ I guess the driver wasn’t paying attention.”
By January, even Beth’s thick, full-length, androgynous L.L.Bean winter coat couldn’t prevent the insults. “It’s just not a compliment anymore. I want to hide. It affects my self-esteem and my kids wonder why I’m nearly in tears when their bus arrives. They think I’m not happy to see them. They don’t know the pain I hide.”
Last week, after months of verbal abuse, Beth finally called the school district to complain. “They said there’s nothing they can do,” she says, “except change my kids’ bus stop so it’s at a further intersection. It’s a half-mile away, but I agreed.
And today, at that intersection, a prison transport bus passed, and a man threw a half-open packet of mayonnaise at my chest and yelled something I’ve already repressed.”
She sighs. “I guess there’s just no getting around it. I should just stay in the house and let my kids walk home.”