As high as a preschooler can count

Yesterday as we dropped Leta off at school the Tumble Bus was pulling into the parking lot. It’s a gigantic school bus that has had its seats extracted and replaced with gym mats and equipment. It comes to her school a few times a month, and any kid can participate in the hour-long program for a small fee. Leta has never been interested in joining the other kids on the bus, we don’t know why, although we’ve asked her repeatedly and her response is always, “ARRGH!” Which I have taken to mean, please, don’t even go there, the list is too long and starts with my angina.

She was still resistant yesterday, but because there weren’t many kids in the Tumble Bus class her regular teacher encouraged us to take her on the bus for a free sample class. Leta understood exactly what her teacher was telling us to do and started protesting immediately, clung to my leg like a desperate koala bear and moaned, “But I don’t want to! I don’t want to go on the Tumble Bus!” Both Jon and I started rattling off everything positive thing we could come up with, started listing reasons she would love it, and nothing worked, not even when I asked her if she knew who drove the Tumble Bus. Who? Why Cinderella, of course. Although sometimes it’s a little difficult to shift the gears in that big blue ball gown.

I was ready to give up, but that is the mother in me. I don’t like feeling my daughter’s fingers gripping me in abject fear, and I could tell by the look in her eye that she was totally scared of that bus. I don’t know if she thought that she’d get on there and find a field of lifeless princess bodies dangling by their necks from the ceiling, or maybe a bus full of miniature Australian Shepherds, but she wasn’t getting on that thing, no way. Except, her father is not her mother and is the type of person who derives great satisfaction out of frightening little children regardless of whether or not they are his own. I married a charmer.

Jon plucked her white fingers from around my leg and stuck her on his hip as he headed toward the bus. Her reaction was to scream and grip his neck as if he were walking up to a cliff to drop her over the edge. She was hysterical, and as he climbed the stairs to where the other children were standing her screaming became more tragic. The Tumble Bus teacher, someone who has had no interaction with Leta, seemed concerned by this reaction, but I was all, dude, this is nothing. You should see what happens when I accidentally fast forward through the previews on the Finding Nemo DVD.

At the top of the stairs Jon told Leta to turn around and look, but she would do no such thing, and then he’d say no, you’re going to look, and she’d say no, you’re out of your mind. This went on for several minutes until he physically moved her head so that it was facing toward the back of the bus, but she covered her eyes with both hands. Finally I saw her take a two-centimeter peek through her fingers, and I am not even kidding, it was as if her scream got sucked up into a vacuum cleaner. Suddenly she released her hands from her face and declared, “I LOVE THE TUMBLE BUS!”

She could not get her shoes off fast enough, and as she joined the other jumping, tumbling kids Jon headed back inside to drop off her things while I stood beside the bus and watched her interact with everyone else. I didn’t want to linger too long, but I did want to take in the moment of my daughter being a kid with the other kids. She didn’t walk when the other kids could walk, couldn’t run when the other kids could run, has been physically uninterested in doing what most kids her age can do. And even though her jump looks nothing like the way the other kids jump, here they all were giggling and not giving a shit. There have been so many instances in her childhood when I am reminded that the reason kids are the way they are is to remind adults again and again, HEY, STOP GIVING A SHIT.

Last night as I was telling Leta stories before bed I asked her if she had a good time on the Tumble Bus. She nodded vigorously, said she loved it a lot, loved it a hundred times, loved it a hundred hundred times, and when I asked her how many a hundred hundred times was she said, “The most times!” Thank God her dad likes to scare little kids.