Busing with two babies: one year later

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.

The good old days

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.

The new world: a walker and a rider

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.

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19 Responses to Busing with two babies: one year later

  1. Carrie says:

    This is why I rarely ride the bus with my kids (3.5 and 21 mos), even though we’re carfree during the week. If we can’t walk to it, we just don’t go.The only exception is if we’re going into downtown, then we walk to the monorail, because I can just roll the stroller on.

    My little one is getting old enough that I’m starting to think about venturing out on short trips on the bus, without the stroller, but I haven’t yet taken the plunge.

    • BusChick says:

      Hi Carrie,

      The other hard part about going without a stroller (even after your kid can walk long distances) is that you might want a way to contain him/her once you get where you’re going. It’s hard to keep track of two if you’re trying to get something done.

      Good luck! Please report back. :)

  2. Laura says:

    I was doing the bus chick thing back in the early 70′s with my own chicklet & busling who are now 38 & 36 (today!).
    I had a back pack carrier when they were the ages your two are now and I was riding the bus daily to get to daycare and school then back home again, with frequent stops for groceries, etc.
    Back in the day, there was no light rail and bus service on the Eastside was not as convenient as it is in 2011. Yet, I still commiserate with your trials. When I ride the bus now as a single rider, I try to be of service to buschick moms, i.e., holding a stroller, a child or providing a distraction/entertainment during the ride.
    Good luck, it does get better.

    • BusChick says:

      Laura (aka Peachbaby):

      Happy birthday to your boy! You are truly an OG bus chick.

      Much respect.

      P.S. – I’m sure the bus moms you ride with appreciate your support.

  3. Leya says:

    I have this same issue, and have found that carrying a backpack makes life with 2 kids 3x easier! Also, I found an umbrella stroller that stands up on it’s own when folded…so handy while waiting at a stop! Uppababy G-luxe.

    Amazed at how you manage this…inspirational.

    • BusChick says:

      I want that stroller! It weighs roughly the same as my Maclaren Volo but reclines (!) and, as you mentioned, stands on its own.

      Why is it that I always find out about the cool products (like the car seat/stroller combo that would have made trips to the Zipcar a zillion times easier) after the fact?

      I need to start researching more.

  4. Jennifer St.Cyr says:

    I used a convertible stroller-backpack when my son was a pre walker and my daughter 3-4. It was so great to be able to wear him on the bus with two hands free to help my daughter get settled in a seat. It was bulky, but folks almost always generously gave up a seat or two in the front for us. Then when the bus ride was over I could pop it out as a stroller and we were on our way! It was a bus mama life saver.

  5. reallyOLDmom says:

    When my 2nd was born, I trained the 2 YO to hold on to the stroller. Since she was a darter, I had a leash that snapped on to her backpack, and I made the deal that as long as she held on, no leash. She let go, I snapped that leash back on, took about 3 days to fully train her so she maintained a death grip on the stroller. For your 3 YO, you might offer a small reward if she holds on to the stroller or you until getting on the bus, rewards work at 3 better than at 2.

    You are doing great, it’s only a short time with 2 in hand anyway!

    • BusChick says:

      That’s a good idea. I do have my 3-yo hold the stroller if I have to let go of her for some reason, but it didn’t occur to me to have her do it while we walk. (Umbrella strollers are hard to push with one hand.) Fortunately, mine’s not a darter, but I’m extremely paranoid near busy streets, and she tends to dawdle if left to her own devices.

      Thanks for the advice and encouragement, reallyOLDmom. LOL.

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