I Ran After The Bus

Several years ago, my oldest daughter went on an all-day field trip with her school class to Fort Snelling and the Minnesota Zoo, more than two hours away. All students needed to bring a sack lunch, a sack dinner and snacks for in between. We made her lunch the night before.

The sack dinner had longer-lasting foods—an apple, peanut butter and crackers. The sack lunch had all the goodies—a ham sandwich, chips, a snack pack of pudding and a can of soda. I put some snacks in a brown bag, too, and labeled all three paper bags as lunch, dinner or snack. The lunch sack went in the fridge overnight, and we left the other two sacks on the counter.

The next morning I returned from exercising at the YMCA and found EH all packed and ready to rush out the door. We didn’t have to be there until 7 a.m., so I slowed down and questioned her.

“Do you have everything?” I asked. “Do you have all your food?”

“Mom, I have everything. Let’s go.”

We still arrived early at the school parking lot where a charter bus was going to take them to Minneapolis. She didn’t want me to wait around with her, so I left and went home.

At home, I fixed breakfast for my other two children. I opened the fridge, and what do you think was in there?

Her sack lunch—the meal with all the good stuff in it! She would only have an apple, peanut butter, crackers, fruit snacks and pretzels for the whole day.

She forgot. I knew she needed to feel the consequences, but she would be so hungry. Was there still time to take it to her?

First, I called the school, but no one answered in the office. I grabbed my keys and the lunch. “Paul, I’m going to try to catch the bus.” I yelled on the way out the door to my husband.

I drove back to the school, following the same streets that the bus would be using. About half-way back to the school, a big charter bus passed me on the other side. I made a U-turn, but I got stopped by a red light as I turned around to follow it.

When the light turned green, I could see the bus ahead. A light had stopped it, too, but now it was just turning the corner ahead of me. I turned with it and drove directly behind it.

At the next light, I stopped my car behind the bus and quickly ran out to deliver the lunch. Instead of running along the driver side of the bus, I cut over and ran along the side toward the door, holding up the lunch, yelling to the windows, “Your lunch. You forgot your lunch.”

I ran about half-way down the side of the bus before it started rolling forward. I ran faster and yelled louder, but it kept going. I ran—still dressed in my morning workout gear—after the departing bus waving a brown paper bag over my head. Even more determined, I changed direction and sprinted back to my car, which sat in the middle of the lane blocking traffic.

I drove, trying to get behind the bus again. Six or seven cars had filled in between us. The speed increased as we moved south of town.  We approached the final stop light before the highway. One last chance.

The bus rolled through a bright green light. I couldn’t reach her. I drove home, sick and sad. I laid on the floor just inside the door and cried. She needed to feel a sense of responsibility for forgetting, but I also wanted to do everything I could to help her. I hadn’t just left the lunch without trying. I ran after the bus.

In this heartbreaking but tender moment I knew that after all I can do as a mother, she will be accountable for her choices. At some point, she will always ride the bus on without me.


  1. Sarah
    Sep 15, 2008

    I always struggle with whether to go get my daughter’s lunch and take to her when she forgets it. I know she will have to be accountable but I remember more than anything the love with which my mom brought me my lunch time and time again when I forgot it. That memory of that love & grace sticks with me more than anything. I am sure I had to buy sometimes but she was really there for me and makes me want to be there for my kids.

    You did the right thing! I am sorry you didn’t catch the bus but it does teach us a valuable lesson that we can’t be there all the time or solve all their problems for them. So what happened? Was she able to borrow food from someone else?

  2. TJ
    Sep 15, 2008

    The adult chaperon in her group was her friend’s mom and they brought a cooler full of food that they shared! Thanks to them it was a non issue and her day turned out fine. But she still remembers the experience, which probably helps her not forget.

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