You know that Paul Simon song, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover“?
Hop on the bus, Gus… no need to discuss much!
My parents used to sing it to me when I was little, growing up in Texas. I started riding the bus to school in second grade. And even before that, I rode the bus every summer to YMCA camp. There was a lot of bus riding going on, and that seemed to be a good theme song. Well, that and Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” but we’re talking about buses so that doesn’t apply.
Here in DC, where public transportation seems to be the norm for most adults– the thought of putting your kid on a school bus is a big deal for many parents.
Lira has been riding the bus to summer camp in McLean, Virginia for three weeks now. It’s a 30 minute ride each way.
A few Capitol Hill moms asked, at the end of the school year, what Lira would be doing this summer. And their responses were almost always the same– the camp sounded cool but McLean is too far to drive. And a bus??? Well, that was out of the question.
- “You’re putting her on a bus? Across town?”
- “Wow. More power too you. I don’t think I could put my kid on a bus.”
- “Are you sure it’s safe?”
Dave’s mom was the worst, though:
- “I just pray to God that bus doesn’t get into a wreck. Or get caught in traffic in the 100 degree heat.”
Um, yeah. Thanks, Nana. Is riding the bus really any worse then me driving her somewhere? Especially with my morning vodka habit (I should probably tell you I’m kidding). The scary part, for me, wasn’t so much safety; it was the thought of her being grown up enough to ride a bus without me. When did that happen?!
The summer camp has the whole thing down to a science and emailed a form that I was supposed to print out and send with her on the first day, but (of course) I forgot. She knows her name, grade, birthday, and I can’t remember what else on that form, so I figured she’d be fine.
On Day 1, I boarded the bus with Lira to get her settled. Apparently, not much has changed since I was a kid: the older, louder, cooler (?) kids were in the back, and they happened to be having this conversation:
Boy 1: What the hell, man?!
Boy 2: You can’t say hell! There are little girls on this bus!
Boy 1: Hell isn’t a bad word. It’s a place you go when you do something bad.
Boy 2: It is a bad word!
Well, at least Lira will be educated on the afterlife. I got her settled in the front of the bus next to a girl from her ballet class, gave her a kiss (she’s not too cool for this yet) and said goodbye. She looked so excited as the bus pulled away.
Later on that day I found out that, because I forgot her print out, Lira missed her stop and cried until a counselor helped her figure out where she was supposed to go. Mother of the Year, right? But other than that, the day went great! Lira loved camp and already decided that she wants to go back next year. When I asked her what her favorite part of the day was, she said “all of it.”
And as for the bus… Lira loved that too. She told me about all of the important things she discussed with her friends on the ride to and from camp: which Mulan movie is the best (did you know there are parts 1, 2 and 3?), who wants to dress up as Brave for Halloween, and whether or not you’re allowed to drink juice on the bus. On our car ride home, she sang La Bamba and asked me how I knew all the words to her new camp song.
I know I’m not completely crazy for letting my 5-year-old ride the bus across town, because there are plenty of other 5 year olds on that bus. But am I walking on the wild side of parenting? Who knows? Either way, I think I’ll save my worrying until she becomes one of those kids who sits in the back of the bus.