First and third grades, here they come!
Parenting is really hard. It’s harder than I ever imagined, and I imagined that it was going to be hard. My baby whispering skills are legendary, but with actual children, I have no idea what I’m doing. Most days, I feel like I’m messing up motherhood — and maybe even my kids.
Then yesterday, at the 8 stop, I looked over at my progeny and saw them doing this.
It wasn’t a surprise — they read every time we wait at a bus stop (or anywhere else, for that matter) — but in that moment, after a morning of whining, arguing, and selective hearing, it was a gift.
It looks like I’ve managed to get at least one thing right.
Today is the seventh year that Bus Driver Appreciation Day has been a thing. In the last couple of years, it has really picked up steam, with transit agencies from across the country–including King County Metro–promoting the day. Along with the agency involvement has come a minor, seemingly innocuous change to the name of the celebration–to Transit Driver Appreciation Day.
Of course all transit drivers are fantastic and important and blahblahblah, but the purpose of this day, March 18th, is to honor BUS drivers. A good bus driver is like a superhero. Maneuvering a gigantic vehicle in traffic while managing passenger needs, trying to keep a schedule, not kill anyone, and deal with occasional (or not-so-occasional) drama has got to be ridiculously difficult—especially if you never get to go to the bathroom.
As for me and mine: We’ll stick with the original name.
One of the values Bus Nerd and I bring to parenting is a strong belief in keeping it simple. We try not to overschedule our kids because we fundamentally disagree with the idea that good parenting = schlepping your offspring from one organized activity to the next. On the contrary: We want to build a life that affords time for unstructured play, time with neighbors and extended family, and time to take on responsibilities at home.
Not having a car reinforces this way of living. It is possible (and very common) for driving parents to sign their kids up for back-to-back lessons/classes/sports that are miles apart and for any number of activities across town. It is not possible for us to do this, and I am grateful.
This doesn’t mean that Chicklet and Busling don’t get to participate in activities (though at six and four, they would hardly be deprived if they didn’t); it means that we focus on priorities and on what’s available in our own neighborhood.
Unfortunately for me, there’s a little too much available in our neighborhood.
Chicklet attends our neighborhood public school, which offers a number of great before- and after-school enrichment programs, including chess, soccer, double dutch, and drumming. She wanted to try chess (one of the few activities available for kindergartners), so she stays after school for an hour every Friday to play.
Learning to swim is a requirement in our household, so our kids take swimming lessons. Fortunately, there is a city pool an easy walk from our home. (Unfortunately, Chicklet and Busling aren’t exactly naturals, so I see many, many sessions in our future.)
Sweet Busling has been begging to take a dance class since he could walk. (Note that he danced–on his knees–even before he could walk.) This spring, I finally relented and signed him up for a creative movement class at the community center, which happens to be right next door to the public pool. If it turns out he’s a dance prodigy who simply must take lessons at a “real” dance school (maybe at our friend Maya’s dance school!), we’ll make the effort to get him there. Until then, the community center works just fine.
Against my better judgment (and per her request), I signed Chicklet up for t-ball this spring. The practices are once a week at a neighborhood park far enough away that walking on a weekday evening is not practical. So, we walk a little less than half a mile to the closest 48 stop (don’t get me started), and then bus the rest of the way. Her games are on Saturdays at a field an easy walk from the house.
Whew! How’s that for keeping it simple?
After school’s out, there will be no more t-ball or chess, and I’ll make a rule: one activity per kid, period. Well, plus swimming, I guess—at least until they can both stay afloat.
Rollin’ to the pool for swimming lessons:
He loves that little bike so much, he’s getting me exciting about cycling. Look out, Bike Month!
Since the last time I posted (in August—ahem), the Bus Fam has been through a few transitions.
For one thing, Chicklet started kindergarten (!), moving us to yet another stage in our bus lives: parenting a school-age kid.
At some point, I will share more extensive thoughts about our experiences so far. For now, I’ll say we are extremely fortunate that there is an amazing preschool on site at Chicklet’s elementary school. Having one drop-off is helpful to all parents; it is the holy grail for bus parents.
We live too close to the school to qualify for a yellow bus, so we walk the half mile both to and from. The route I catch from there to work comes every half hour at peak, so timing can be tricky. Also, there’s weather. But the frantic morning rush and occasional drenching downpours are more than made up for by the joy of spending the beginning of each day on the ground in our neighborhood, hand in hand in hand.
To solidify her full-fledged kid status, Chicklet went and turned six (sniff!), which means she has reached official fare-paying age. (More on this in a later post.) We bought her an Orca card of her own for her birthday, and she wears it on a lanyard as needed. (Otherwise, it’s stored in my bus bag.) The first time she used it was on an 8-ride to Seattle Children’s Theatre, to celebrate her birthday with her oldest friend.
Sweet “baby” Busling grew all the way up; he’s four these days (!!!). On our morning walks to school, he likes to pretend we’re a family of animals—dolphins or lions or cheetahs or ponies—which can be helpful when we’re in a rush. (I’ve never heard of a slowpoke cheetah.)
We’ve taken two 8 rides to meet actual babies (C & B’s new cousins) at the hospital. And, we’ve taken several rides–on multiple routes–to visit them since.
Me? I don’t need anything–other than for my buses to keep running, that is.
If this month’s emergency ballot measure fails, and Metro is forced to make cuts, our family will lose our three most-used routes. Two of our remaining regular routes will be reduced. Only one will remain untouched.
These are not minor inconveniences that require slight adjustments. This is a wholesale dismantling of the bus system as we’ve known it.
Unlike many people who will be affected by the cuts, Bus Nerd and I have the option to buy a car. (By that I mean, we can afford one, we are able-bodied, and we know how to drive.) I have tried to prepare my mind for this possibility and have found that I am completely incapable of imagining it. Not to get all Thelma and Louise, but something has crossed over in me. This bussin’ birdie can’t go back in the car cage.
But not wanting to live a particular way is not the same as not being able to. If we cut bus service, we will cut off basic mobility for thousands of people across the county who don’t have the luxury of deciding whether to buy a car. We will take away people’s access to employment, education, health care, and vital community connections. We will marginalize our elders and our youth, our neighbors and friends with disabilities, and people who don’t happen to have $8,000+ to spend on transportation every year.
And “vulnerable populations” aren’t the only ones who are vulnerable. All of us, no matter how we get around, breathe the same air, drink from the same water supply, and suffer the effects of our warming climate. All of us pay the health, economic, and environmental costs of our car-dependent culture.
I am hoping hard that the citizens of King County do the right thing next Tuesday–because we simply cannot afford not to.
Two grateful riders celebrate the holiday:
The three of us (Chick, Chicklet, and Busling) are putting on shoes, jackets, and et cetera, preparing to head out and catch the 8. Chicklet, who has no rival in the dawdling department, is (per usual) taking forever. She resists instructions to take a preventative trip to the restroom, puts her shoes on the wrong feet, pauses to play with dinosaur figurines recently strewn around the entry, and manages to misplace one of her mittens.
While I’m zipping Busling’s jacket, she disappears into the bedroom. I call for her to come back and put on her hat.
She calls back: “I’m just going to get …”
Busling stops her mid-sentence, and in a perfect imitation of my exasperated tone, hollers, “We don’t have time!”