This time last year, I was adjusting to busing with two babes. My first few months with a newborn and a two-year old were challenging, to say the least. But then, my little chip off the big chick stepped up and became a full-time walker, and our travels—Busling in the front pack, Chicklet on foot—got easy again.
Now, sweet Busling is growing up, and the old system isn’t working. These days, traveling alone* with two is, well, tough. It’s not the actual riding that’s the challenge (not to brag, but I could teach a class on managing children on transit); it’s the logistics. The wrangling, rushing, folding, hand-holding, stowing, storing. The paying while entering or leaving (and sometimes, while entering and leaving**), the finding space, the keeping dry.
What I’m really trying to say is, it’s the stroller.
Baby B has grown too big to be carried comfortably in a front pack (and has also developed a particular fondness for the phrase, “get down”). The carrier we have also works as a baby backpack, but I am incapable of getting him on or off my back without either assistance or a lot of time. Add to that the fact that neither of us is comfortable with the prospect of him being strapped to me for the duration of an outing, and you have a pretty decent argument for bringing along a stroller.
Except that bringing a stroller on a bus is just about the worst form of torture this bus parent can imagine.
For those who don’t know: KC Metro does not allow children in strollers on buses. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I have no idea why this rule exists, but I assume it has something to do with keeping the aisles clear.) What this means is that, if you’re traveling with a child in a stroller, you must remove the child from and completely collapse said stroller before entering the bus. (I’ve seen some parents do the child removing and stroller collapsing on the bus, but I don’t, for a number of reasons.)
Here’s a sample busing-with-two-and-a-stroller scenario:
1. Put baby in bus-friendly, umbrella-type stroller for the three-block walk*** to the stop. (Alternative: Put baby in front pack for the trip to the stop and carry or drag the folded stroller.)
2. Try to push stroller with one hand while using the other hand to hold on to three-year old. This leaves no hands to hold an umbrella if it is raining, which it almost always is.
3. Attempt to arrive at the stop with enough time for baby-removal/folding (Ever tried arriving anywhere early with two young children?), but not so much time that the three of you get soaked.
4. Remove baby from stroller while keeping a close eye on three-year old near very busy street.
5. When the bus arrives, carry baby, stroller, bag, and three-year old up bus steps—unless, that is, the bus gods bless you with a low-floor vehicle. (Alternatives: a)Allow three year-old to do the climbing herself and hold up the bus. b) Bring baby pack for on/off and add another item to keep track of and another step to the process.)
6. Pay (convenient bag tap—actually easy—yay Orca!).
7. Find space for everyone and an out-of-the-way place to stow the stroller.
8. Spend a few (sometimes many) minutes of quality time with the kids–usually reading books or discussing the goings-on outside the window.
9. Start preparing to repeat the process in reverse.
Because I so despise bringing a stroller on the bus, I spend a lot of time calculating whether it is worth it to me. I generally weigh the hassle of bringing it (if we have to transfer, how crowded the buses are likely to be) against my need for it at the other end. If we’re visiting someone’s home, I’m unlikely to need it. If we’re hitting several different downtown stores, I’m very likely to need it. (If I decide not to bring the stroller, I carry Busling in the front pack and endure the less-than-idealness.) Sometimes (actually often) both the hassle factor and the need factor are high. Add to this the many mitigating factors (rush hour? nap time?) and the fact that our backup travel options are also made more complex (or impossible) with two kids, and it adds up to way too much mental (and physical) energy invested in simply getting around. (I knew we should’ve moved near a Link station!)
Of course I know this challenge will pass. It will get better temporarily when the weather improves (Hello, August? It’s me, Bus Chick. I miss you!), and it will disappear entirely (to be replaced, I am sure, with new and different challenges) once Busling is old enough to walk several blocks on his own. Not that I’m rushing things. The years are flying by as it is. And, stroller hassles or not, I created some amazing baby-busing memories during this one.
* I should say, before you all start to think I’ve gone sour on the bus, that busing with two adults and two children is still a lot of fun—far more fun than I imagine driving with two adults and two children would be. And these days, busing alone with one child feels like a vacation.
**If you ride a route that originates outside of downtown but travels through it, you have to pay twice because of pay as you enter/pay as you leave drama. (If you’re not from Seattle: Don’t ask.) Of course, you don’t actually get charged twice—since you already have either a transfer or a pass—but it’s still a hassle.
***Distances vary, depending on which route we’re catching.