No Seat Belts
My nine year old rides the public transit bus to school, with no adult chaperone. Just with some classmates, typically some war vets, and sometimes a doughnut in hand, this is how she experiences the responsibility of being on time. As well as the reward of it: the once a week ‘doughnut day’ is our incentive for getting out of the house on time (or early rather). It helps the kids move through the morning routine without too much derailing. Sure, there might be some bribing (read incentivizing) going on here, but there’s a lot more to our story.
We made the choice to send our child to a charter school. We garden and grow some of the food we eat, and think a lot about where the rest of our food comes from and what’s in it. We’re in the mindset of being purposeful with our decisions. We think a lot about giving our kids the most ‘optimal’ environment to thrive. It’s our natural inclination as parents. We all have this drive, right? As parents we’ve thought that riding the city bus can provide valuable real world experiences.
But isn’t there some stigma around public transit? We’ve all absorbed the less than stellar conversations between some public transit riders. And now my daughter is among these regulars. She’s been riding this bus route since she was a kindergartener. Didn’t a mom in NYC receive backlash because she sent her similarly aged child onto the subway to commute on his own? Am I in neglect, or putting my child in danger?
I’ve been inspired by my daughter’s un-phased character. She’s not greasing profanities or languishing in any noticeable way. In fact she’s building friendships on the bus, learning about how to get around, recognizing other buses around town (kind of like the car complex we experience when we own a Subaru and we start seeing them everywhere), feeling empowered, and being rewarded with responsibility.
We take advantage of the bus on weekends sometimes just for fun. With hands off the wheel we can engage more, help more, and communicate without worry of the road. Plus, ask any young child if they’d like to ride the bus and to them it’s an adventure. The bus money is a novelty, the driver a chuffer, the steps like floors of a building, the freedom to choose your own seat, big windows….no seatbelts!
We don’t necessarily live right on the bus line. You don’t need to even live in a city in order to ride. We have to get to the stop by car most mornings. However, spring has brought out our bikes again and yesterday we enjoyed a side-by-side ride into town to catch the bus. First her bus arrives, and then mine right after. Life isn’t without coordination and planning and now that these rhythms have become habit we’ve worked through the humps of ‘I have to walk too far after the bus drops us off’ or ‘There was a man on the bus sitting near me that smelled like peppers. And then another man got on the bus, and he smelled like peppers.’
I can’t guarantee there won’t be some kind of altercation or disturbance, but it’s not like the bus is without boundaries. There are other eyes, ears, and helpers (community) on the bus to diffuse and report. That’s the trust I have in us as people and the effort I place in my own heart to do the same. Oh, and did I happen to mention the 45 minutes of driving time it saves us in the mornings…equating to rewards on gas, money, and inevitably our natural resources.
It might not seem like much, but this extra effort to be resourceful has enriched our lives in other unforeseen ways. When we participate in our community we’re building familiarity, safety, and ownership where they didn’t exist before, and raising kids to be engaged in the place they live.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.