A father worried about why his daughter often remained behind in the school bus after others left, so he decided to find answers. What he found was not what he expected.
Benjamin Bruce was a single dad who had to step in to become his child’s mother after she passed away. Their daughter, Emily, had been six when it happened.
Ben loved his daughter because, to him, she was all that was left of his beloved wife, and he had also promised her that Emily would be well taken care of no matter what.
To that end, Ben tried his best to juggle work while being present in his daughter’s life. He had no other family he trusted to look after her, so he had to do everything himself.
The first couple of years were rough on him as a parent, and just as he was acclimatizing to the rollercoaster, his daughter hit puberty, and at that point, things got wilder.
She suddenly started going through physical changes right before his eyes, and he knew what they meant — the boys would be coming for her. How could they not; his daughter had his late wife’s red hair and deep green eyes that seemed designed to mesmerize.
Even Ben was not immune to her eyes and had fallen prey to her will multiple times over the years. When she clocked 12, two years after she hit puberty, Emily discovered boys.
That led to her paying a lot of attention to her hair and appearance because she wanted to look good for her school crush. Ben was prepared to beat back boys with a stick if need be, but what he was not ready for was caring for his daughter’s looks.
Emily had to do that herself, but she was terrible at it with no role model to learn from. Ben often just cut her hair short as a child because he knew nothing about hair care, but he had to respect her wishes to keep her hair longer as she grew older.
There was little he would not do for his child, so to help her, he started brushing her hair when it was long enough. He was a big man, and even though he tried to be gentle, he occasionally pulled it out.
“Ouch!!!!” she yelled one day.
“I’m sorry baby,” he apologized quickly, as he always did.
“You need to be more gentle daddy,” she would admonish him sometimes.
Other times, she just endured the pain because she did not want to make her father feel terrible for causing it. Ben felt the sting of his failure each time his daughter complained of her hair getting pulled out, and that made him try to cut her hair again.
“Just get rid of it all,” he would say when they argued about it sometimes. “Your mom kept her hair cropped short and she still looked wonderful.”
“Daddy, I will no longer cut my hair, look how slow its growth is because of how often you cut it in the past,” she would shoot back. In any case, Ben never won the arguments, but he didn’t need to; they stopped coming up after a short while.
Shortly after that, he noticed that his daughter started getting tardy notices from her class teacher, Mrs. Flynn. So he called the woman to find out.
“That’s right, Mr. Bruce. Your daughter has five tardy notices this week alone. Is there anything going on I should know about?” the woman asked him.
“Nothing is going on. Things have been great at home for some time now and I do release her to join the bus early so I’m sure she makes it to school when others do,” he explained.
“Did you notice anything going on with her this past week?” Ben asked.
“Well, I was running late for class once and I saw her alight from the bus rather late even though she should have been in class by that time. The driver probably knows something about it because only they can access the bus at any time.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Flynn, I’ll get to the bottom of this,” Ben told her before ending the call.
Worried about why his daughter was spending extra time on a bus, Ben followed her the next day. True to what Mrs. Flynn told him, he noticed that everyone on the bus alighted when it arrived on the school grounds — everyone but his daughter.
As soon as he could, Ben burst into the bus in a rush thinking the worst but was instead met with the scene of a nice 40-year-old woman combing his daughter’s hair. The woman, Madeline, was the bus driver.
“Mr. Bruce?” the woman exclaimed at his sudden entry as Emily looked up, surprised to see her father.
“Dad? What are you doing here?”
“Hello ma’am,” Ben said after clearing his throat and righting himself. “Sorry about barging in, but I heard my daughter was getting tardy notices so I came to see why.”
“Oh, well in that case, here’s why,” the woman said, gesturing to his daughter’s hair. “I noticed how she seemed to struggle with her hair so I offered to help her brush it every day before she goes to class because she says her rough hair often makes her feel bad.”
“Honey,” Ben said to his daughter. “You never told me this.”
“I just didn’t want you to worry about it,” Emily defended.
Later that day, Ben invited Madeline for coffee. When the bus driver heard about what happened to his wife, she started to cry.
She herself was a cancer survivor, and she was well aware of how lucky she was to have pulled through and was grateful that she could still be there for her own children.
Madeline was convinced she survived for the kids on the bus who needed somebody to talk to or do their hair or whatever, so she begged Ben to find a compromise that would help his daughter.
To that end, Ben spoke to Mrs. Flynn, her teacher, and after explaining things to the woman, Emily was never given a tardy notice again. Ben was grateful to Madeline, and he remained close friends with her for a long time.
What did we learn from this story?
Never jump to conclusions. Ben gave himself a fright when he immediately assumed something sinful was happening between the bus driver and his child, and if he had not taken the pains to confirm it, things might have taken a terrible turn.
Give back when you can. Madeline believed he was spared from death to take care of other kids, and that was what she did. Caring for those kids was her way of giving back, and it left her feeling fulfilled, especially since she was able to touch lives like .