Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus: My kids use public transportation - this does not make me a bad parent

"You guys have to take the bus today" I informed them as they were sitting on the couch playing Minecraft this morning. They looked up: one unconcerned, the other dismayed.

"Mama, I don't want to ride the bus."

"Well, you have to ride the bus, because I have to work and the bus stop is right across the street from the restaurant. You can come in and have a snack while I finish up my shift."

There was much pouting. This is new. They have only ridden the bus a couple of times, it's an event that happens about once a month, and it has always gone off without a hitch. So what's the problem? Why the pouting?

A bus ride should not equal a guilt trip, people. I work. I work outside of the home. Sometimes, I have to work until 4pm, and school ends at 3pm. Luckily, the bus rolls by campus a few minutes after 3pm heading straight for town. And my kids - ages 13 and 8 - should be able to walk down the block, board the county bus, and ride it two - TWO - stops to the bus stop that is across the street from the restaurant.

Yes, they should.

We live in a rural area. The fact that there is even bus service is exciting. I want it to stay. I want to support public transportation. And when it is so convenient, riding the bus should be a no-brainer. This is not the same as navigating LA or New York City alone by any means - but you know what? KIDS IN LA AND NEW YORK RIDE THE BUS TOO. I rode the train and the bus in NYC at a very young age with my slightly older cousin. I don't know how old I was - maybe 3rd or 4th grade? I was young enough to be wearing a small, royal blue, child-sized L.L. Bean backpack with my initials embroidered on it. I remember this clearly, because one night - not late, but after dark - I forgot it on the floor under my seat on the city bus, and my cousin left me standing on the corner, alone under a street lamp in the middle of NYC, while she ran after the bus to retrieve my backpack. I remember it all so clearly, the cold air, the taxis whizzing by, the homeless man sitting nearby - this was a defining moment in my life. I have never left anything behind on a bus ever since. And you know what else? I was perfectly fine standing there on the corner alone.

My husband rode public transportation to school in Boston every single day and lived to tell the tale. He was also a "latch-key kid", and survived that experience relatively unscathed as well. This is a fact which - given the stories he tells about fashioning blow torches out of cans of hairspray and lighters to melt his GI Joes - is far more shocking to me than that he managed to navigate public transportation successfully, given his distinct lack of direction and inability to read a map.

The bottom line is this: My husband and I were both scheduled to be at work today, and a bus was able to bring my children to me in under 10 minutes, and dammit that should be fine. That bus should be a solution to a problem.

But no. No, riding the bus IS the problem, apparently. So I handed my kids $5 and told them they had exactly six and a half hours to come to terms with the fact that their parents are gainfully employed, and that they would need to use public transit from time to time.

"I know, it must be so hard to bear, this hardscrabble life in Hawaii, attending a private school and having your own bedroom and two parents with two cars pretty much at your disposal 24-7. To be forced to use an alternate mode of transportation occasionally must just break your heart.

Life. Is. Tough."

"But mama, I really don't want to ride the bus."

"I get that. I really do. And you know what? I don't really want to go to work today. But I am going to, and so are you."

So I went to work, and they went to school. And still, I felt guilty. I didn't want them to be upset or feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of riding the bus. Because I am their mama, and I hear them when they are worried. So I considered my options carefully. I am a "pick your battles" kind of mom.

Just for the record, they got a ride home with a friend.

1 comment:

Busboy said...

I like this post a lot. Thank you for posting.