They came tearing down the driveway, waving their skinny-as-toothpick arms, yelling. For a split second I thought they were excited, but as they drew closer, my middle aged eyes focused enough to see she was crying and he looked furious.
“He punched her!” my son yelled.
“He punched me in the eye!” my daughter said through hiccupy sobs. That’s when I noticed her left eye was red and swollen.
And then I was sprinting in my bare feet up the driveway toward the school bus, the two of them yelling the details at my back. I was going to get to whichever he had just punched my 8 year old in the eye. What I was going to do when I got there, I didn’t know.
I took two of the bus steps in a single leap. Panting, I looked at the driver. “My daughter says a boy punched her.”
She nodded, “Oh yeah, he punched her alright.”
And then a dozen of the children seated near the front of the bus leapt from their seats, their helium voices competing.
‘Oh boy, he punched her!’
‘I saw it!’
‘I was like ‘what!’
“Where is he?” I asked.
“He got off, a ways back,” the driver told me.
I got off the bus, took the kids inside, got an ice pack on my daughter’s eye and asked her what happened.
“He was picking his nose next to me, so I said, ‘You’re picking your nose.’ Then he said, ‘You want me to bring these bad boys out?’ and he punched me.”
She mimed what he had done, lifting her fists like a little boxer.
I had to stifle a laugh. Look, I wasn’t happy this happened, but God gave me the kid who is going to call you out if you pick your nose.
My son told his tale of rushing up the bus aisle, one of his buddies on his heels for back up. “Did you just punch my sister?” he supposedly roared at the boy. Then the bus driver got involved and it was over and the kid got off.
I called the school and learned I wasn’t the first parent to call. This was news. Other children had streamed off the bus, telling the story of the punch to their parents.
After the vice principal assured me the boy would be dealt with, things calmed down and snacks were given and homework got done.
Later that afternoon, my daughter and I were in the shower together. It was a habit I started a few months earlier, in a summer time saving effort.
My daughter loved my shower, with its soaps and gels and scrubs, the way it was so grown up and nice smelling. Each day she would agonize over which perfumey product she got to use.
I was exhausted and grumpy. I still had a load of laundry to fold, piano practice to supervise, and dinner to cook. I wanted a minute, just a single solitary moment to wash my hair.
“You know, I think you need to start taking showers by yourself soon,” I said to her.
She froze, her fingers in her sudsed up hair. “Why?”
“Because you’re getting bigger. And I just did this for the summer.”
“You told me I could take a shower with you for the rest of my life.”
“I never said that.”
“Yes you did.”
“Listen,” I said, “Mommy would just like some time to herself.”
She dropped her hands to her side, the water running down her body, matching the tears that started to slide down her cheeks.
“But you’ll have plenty of time to yourself when you’re dead.”
She began to cry harder.
“And I want to be with you. So I can remember you.”
It turns out my daughter’s punch is a helluva lot harder than that boy’s on the bus.