How Two Schoolyard Dumpsters Symbolize My Heartbreak and Hope as a Parent


Every morning when I drop my son, Austin, off at school, I can always count on being greeted by the same two faces. Day in and day out, rain, snow, sleet or shine, they are there, waiting for our arrival. They are older and a little weathered now but still stand tall with strong backbones. Their names are Bruce and Betty, and I can always count on them to be sitting with anticipation.

Well, Bruce and Betty is what I have named them. In fact, they are not human — but they do have faces. You see, Bruce and Betty are large brown dumpsters.

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They are behemoths with their mouths open wide, waiting for whatever crap is coming their way for the day. It doesn’t matter how bad their previous day was, the sly grin on their faces is always the same, welcoming us to their courtyard. They stand there, stately, holding predominate positions at the back of the school near the cafeteria. On warm days, their fragrance is intoxicating, presenting to your nostrils what remained of yesterday’s cafeteria gourmet fare.

Most parents never get to meet Bruce and Betty. In fact, they probably don’t even know they exist. You see, most parents never come around to the back of the school. When they arrive to drop off or pick up their students, they arrive at the front of the school where the flag is located, waving as a banner of identity for all those who enter through the front gate.

Not us. Special needs parents like us, have to drive around to our designated area, which is at the back of the school. For us, our gate of entry is directly between Bruce and Betty, where they stand like sentinels guarding a secret passage. Our children must begin and end their school day between Bruce and Betty, between the dumpsters.

To me, Bruce and Betty are symbolic. They represent all of the dreams we had for our children before they were born that have shifted due to their disabilities. They represent what some perceive to be our place in society, relegated to entering through the back door, away from the “normal” people. They also represent the feelings of hope that sometimes elude parents of children with special needs.

Yes, sitting at the back of the school between Bruce and Betty can be heartbreaking. Some days it’s no big deal — I see Bruce and Betty as just two objects standing in their assigned positions. Other days, they serve as a reminder of what has been lost.

But I am also thankful. I am thankful for those who are willing to stand between the dumpsters with us — teachers, teacher assistants, aids and therapists — all choosing a career in which walking between Betty and Bruce are twice daily activities. I am also thankful for administrators and principles who work with parents like us to find ways to make attending school easier for our children. If entering through the gate of Bruce and Betty is the best way for my son to get in and out of his school, then that is what we are going to do.

I want to say thank you to everyone who have had a positive impact on my son’s life. You volunteer for jobs that many pass over so that you can make a difference in the lives of special children. You work out ways to reduce stress levels associated with attending school. Not only are you making a difference in children’s lives, you are making a difference in the lives of their parents as well.

And to you, Bruce and Betty, thank you for standing guard over our children. We will see you again next week.

(P.S. – You need a shower! You stink.)

This post originally appeared on Eric Parker Blog.

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