I have both awful and wonderful memories of my bus-riding days. Growing up, my bus was supposed to arrive early. It rarely did, but we always had to be there bright and early just in case the bus was on time. I grew up in Charleston SC, which isn’t known for it’s bitter winters, but when you take middle schoolers with Southern blood and mix it up with a winter morning we could have sworn we were in the arctic. The boys started a ritual of lighting the neighbors newspapers on fire to keep warm and strangely none of us really found a problem with this… and we never got in trouble.
The bus ride itself was full of foul language and massively overcrowded. And I had the added burden of hefting a tenor sax back and forth to school everyday. If you’ve never seen a tenor sax just know that they are huge. And the case is even bigger, basically it looked like I was hauling a coffin to school. The bus was crowded so we were three to a seat and a tenor sax in my lap. Pot holes became the enemy as they sent my tenor sax crashing into my face. Sometimes… I would “forget” my instrument at school so I wouldn’t have to haul the crazy thing.
When it came time for my children to start school I looked back on my bus memories and decided there was no way I was going to place my kids on a bus. For two years I raced to the pick up line, hauled a crying, cranky toddler in and out and made sure that my kids didn’t labor a second trying to spy my van in the pick up line. Man. I was a good mom.
One day as I was doing this “good mom” routine I realized something. My kids need to learn to fight their own battles. They need to learn about difficulties and responsibility. They need to learn discernment and how to recover from bad choices. These are skills I had pushed to the future when really these skills were needed now. Things began to change when the reality of our current world became apparent to me. Our kids have to be strong. Not at the cost of their childhood, but to preserve their childhood.
I made a compromise. We drop the kids off at school in the morning… mostly so no one has the need to stay warm by the glow of newspaper fires. Then the kids ride the bus home in the afternoon where I watch from the front porch. This skill is especially important for Lola. Lola does not have the vision to drive and will always rely on alternate forms of transportation. This allows her to exercise independence from an early age.
They have been riding the bus for three weeks now. They have a sweet bus driver, who I have met and spoken to at least 4 times, and their bus ride is about 15 minutes total. They love the bus. It hasn’t been perfect. Elliott had a few name calling episodes and we talked through that. We talk about the bus ride every day. What was cool, what wasn’t. And if one doesn’t talk, the other two certainly do!
We’ve had great conversations centered around standing up for what you believe in, being kind and helpful to others, resisting temptation, being responsible (don’t leave your lunchbox on the bus!), and being independent and trustworthy. They don’t know it yet but, to teach them about perseverance, I have big plans to purchase huge instruments for them haul around. Mom, Dad…. that’s what you were trying to do right??
I realize my bus experience doesn’t sound great. But I learned to be strong, I learned when to speak and when to be quiet and I learned to take things 20 minutes at a time. Valuable lessons for much harder life situations down the road. I also had the thrill of my life throwing open the emergency hatch in the back and jumping out of the bus on the last day… but don’t tell my kids that.
Raising strong kids isn’t always easy or comfortable but how can we send kids into a dark world without the tools to defend themselves. It may not be a bus for you. But I challenge you to consider small steps you can take to build independence and character in your kids.
In fact! I would love to hear from you. What are you doing to help prepare your young kids for success?