Today marked the end of summer vacation for our kids. As we prepped for this over the past several days by trying to get sleep schedules adjusted, discussing appropriate behavior, and attending “meet the teacher”, our kiddos were inundated with information. We felt confident they were set up for success on their first day of school (1st and 5th grade).
About halfway through the day, I was hit with a wave of nervousness. I couldn’t remember if we had discussed with the kids about how they would be riding the bus home just like last year (we drive them in the morning). My wife, Sara, assured me that she let them know their bus was the exact same one as last year. I asked her if she had explicitly told them they were riding the bus home. When she said no, that she just told them their bus was the same as last year, I knew with almost certainty that our son (5th grade) would not be on the bus when we went to pick them up at the stop in the afternoon.
What we failed to consider when discussing the bus scenario was our audience. The same message was delivered to our son and daughter: Your bus is the same as last year. We assumed we didn’t need to expand on that and specifically say that you need to ride that bus home. However, our audience for this message was varied. Our daughter is very much like my wife. She is organized, diligent, and pays attention to details. On the other hand, our son has selective hearing and will often try to get away with the bare amount of effort necessary.
At 2:35 this afternoon we walked up to the neighborhood bus stop and watched as kids excitedly exited the bus. We saw our daughter emerge with a big smile; eager to share the day’s events. We lingered near the bus door for a bit after, what appeared to be, the last student exited. At that point, my concern was realized. Our son did not get on the bus. Oh, and I forgot to mention, this same thing happened last year.
When I arrived at the school, one of the assistant principals was waiting in the lobby with him. Before I could even open my mouth he said, “What? You never told me I was supposed to ride the bus.”
The moral of the story: When communicating, be sure to consider your audience and tailor your message accordingly. Lesson learned!
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