When I attended Kindergarten orientation, the teacher asked me to sign a form indicating if my child would be riding the bus.
I added his name to the list, and then noticed that out of twenty five children in the class, only about five of them were going to be riding the bus.
“Will he be riding the bus the first day of school?” The teacher asked.
“Yes!” I enthusiastically replied. My son has been dreaming of riding the bus for years — just like his big sister — and I couldn’t imagine depriving him of this experience one more day.
The teacher seemed shocked that he’d be riding the bus the first day. Based off of her reaction, I thought back to when my daughter started kindergarten, and how she also rode the bus the first day by herself, proud to be independent and get herself to school like a big kid.
As I left Kindergarten orientation, it was about 15 minutes before school would let out for the day. This is when I noticed a line of cars — parents lined up, parked in front of the school with their cars running, waiting to pick up their children. I’ve only been at school when it releases a few times, and it’s a traffic nightmare, requiring the principal of the school to direct traffic and hold a stop sign so that the buses can make it out of the parking lot.
All of this got me pondering. The bus has been such a blessing in my life. The kids love it. It saves me a TON of time. Our bus stop is one house away, so we literally can listen for the bus from our house and send the kids out when we hear it. I am not ashamed to admit it — I have a love affair with the bus.
And if this has been such a positive impact on my family, why, I wonder, are these parents subjecting themselves to the traffic and madness of driving all the way to and from the school each day?
As I talked around to my network of moms, these were the objections I heard:
1. “I don’t think the bus is safe.” Yes, I know they don’t have seatbelts, but after doing a simple Internet search on bus safety, I found this:
To the parents with safety concerns, I know it’s hard to trust other drivers, but really, you should let this fear go. The stats are in the bus’ favor. If you are concerned about strangers, then escort your kids to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives. You could also meet them at the bus stop in the afternoon and escort them home.
2. “I heard kids pick up bad behavior on the bus.” Kids can pick up bad behavior anywhere. Heck, my kids have picked up my habit of saying bad words occasionally. My daughter has been riding the bus for three years, and yes, sometimes she’ll have stories about boys teasing her on the bus or girls not wanting to sit with her, but this, my friends, is childhood. This will happen at school, in sports, or even between siblings. I use these incidents as teaching opportunities. And sometimes, I don’t need to teach — like when I asked my daughter what she did when the boys were teasing her, and she said, “I just ignored them so they got bored and started doing something else.”
3. “I want the extra time with my kids.” OK, I guess I can understand this if the parent isn’t working or has a super flexible job. As a parent that works full time, though, it kind of baffles me that parents will show up so early (up to 20-30 minutes) to line up in their cars to pick kids up. If I do have extra time, I’ll go out and meet the kids at the bus stop, which is just as exciting for them, and we’re all happier as my blood pressure is much lower if I haven’t just had to fight a traffic jam or sit in a car thinking about all of the things I’m supposed to be doing.
And that leads me to the environment… When I see this line of SUVs parked in front of the school with their engines running as the parents wait for their school, I picture Al Gore standing there and shaking his head in sadness at this. Which brings up another selling point for the bus — bus riding is good for the environment!
If you live more than one mile from the school, there is a bus that is driving to your neighborhood. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT MY FRIENDS. It is good for YOU and the environment.
Even better than the time and gas/emissions savings the bus provides, it helps kids foster independence. As we prepared for that first day of Kindergarten and I saw that my son would be the ONLY child riding the bus, I started to doubt myself. I asked him, “on the first day of school, would you prefer to have Mom take you, or would you like to ride the bus with your sister?” He lit up and said, “I want to ride the bus with sister!” So instead of taking his picture in front of the school sign (as seems to be the new trend), I did what my own mother did for back to school pictures — I took pictures of the kids in front of the house, and sent them off on their adventure. Riding the bus lets kids learn to be confident and independent in a safe environment.
After eight years of having to shuttle kids to and from daycare and preschool, I cannot tell you the absolute freedom and joy I experienced on that day that both of my children became bus riders. It was transcendent, my friends. So if you are one of those people who have been by-passing the FREE bus service that has been most likely driving past your house twice a day, I encourage you to reconsider. Your kids will love it, and you will feel the freedom that I felt as I snapped this selfie in front of the bus that first day when my two kids boarded it.
To find out more about bus service in Washoe County, visit the WCSD Transportation Website.
I think I will bake our bus driver some cookies this weekend.