We did this when she was a baby, but I was together with her mother, and she nursed the whole time. Now in yet another badge of growing up, she requires a full-price seat of her own (fortunately it’s only $12). She is so heartbreakingly grown up, she is able to get on the bus herself, while I stow her stroller. Because she has never ridden a schoolbus, she does not know the cool kids sit on the back and picks the seat right behind the driver. This proves unfortunate as he is able to censor our activity. “Sir, she needs to sit up!” and Ronia is able to retaliate by kicking his glass divider. Perhaps because I have stopped her from doing so, she begins to kick me.
Actually, what she says is “Stop holding your arms like that!” And when I ignore her, “Stop ignoring me!” I am unprepared for this aggression, Ronia usually saves it for her mother. The perks of the patriarchy. And, because I am Jewish, I think “food!” But as I am asking Ronia if she wants her macaroni and cheese, it occurs to me that I have stashed it under the bus, along with her books. The kicking goes on interminably long time, a woman across the aisle flashes me a supportive smile. This acutally helps immeasurably, reminding that I am taking one for the team here. Better me, than the driver.
Still it does make me wish someone would actually attempt to distract Ronia. Oh yes, distraction! I look out the window at the slow-moving traffic: “Look Ronia, a billboard! And…a yellow car!” Suddenly, she is riveted, just like that. I dose her further with the headphones, though she is annoyed that the don’t fit in her cute button ears, we are now “free to be” child and father. And because she has no frame of reference, she doesn’t seem to notice that the bus is an hour and a half late, on a two hour ride.
I drop her at a restaurant with her auntie, with whom she will have a sleepover. The place is New York loud, but I really don’t have time or energy to ask my sister to take her somewhere else. Later, I find out Ronia has requested “somewhere quieter” and off they went. She has stood up for herself, when I didn’t. I am thrilled.
* * *
On the return ride, I forgot the earphones but remembered snacks and books. I wonder if I can show Ronia the movie Ratatouille on mute, my lady has had me pack it just in case. Ronia refused the bathroom in the restaurant, so we head back to the Boltbus toilet. Before I can latch the door to turn on the light, she panics at being taken into a darkened space, When I get the light on, she refuses to pee in a moving toilet. Oddly, she is not put off by the general foulness of it, just the rattling of the bus. “Can we just go home?” Oh, how I wish.
I take her back to the seat, hoping she will give in if it gets bad enough. She falls asleep on my chest, and I am relieved. Usually she doesn’t pee in her sleep. And if worse comes to worse, at least I will get it on me and not on the Bolt seats, which have no doubt seen enough.
I am hoping we will stop in Cherry Hill, NJ but we don’t. As we are pulling into Philadlephia, I feel the telltalle wetness. As Ronia has woken up, she pees on me but I can again take one for the bus-riding team. I get her off the bus and into the 30th Street Station bathroom. Because we are travelling, we have clean clothes. She now asks to pee, showing she was able to hold it a little. We make it home, and she runs to play with the kids on her block, giving me a some blessed time to forgive myself, and admire her.