Some of my most poignant childhood moments were perched upon the green vinyl seats of a big yellow bus.
But they won’t be for my kids.
In our previous homes, I walked or biked my boys to school everyday, the school bus wasn’t even an option. However, our latest move dropped us in a small city in cornfield country. At first, I held off signing them up for the school bus, because our first home was a temporary rental until we bought a house. At the time, we all were dealing with adjustment issues and reverse culture shock after living abroad. So that first year back in the U.S.A., I drove them and didn’t think too much about it.
Then we bought a house. And after a couple of years stateside, everyone got pretty well-adjusted. We made friends. Settled into a routine. Slowly became more American and less European.
It would only take one phone call to get my boys added to the bus pickup list. But I found that every time the subject came up, I started dragging my feet and making excuses.
My friends ask, “Why don’t your boys take the bus?” And my mother was dumbfounded by my choice to burn gas and waste precious time driving through town twice a day.
More than once, I looked up the number for the school transportation office. But I couldn’t make the call.
Until finally it hit me, why I’m continuing to make this 2.5-mile, 8-10 minute drive every morning and afternoon to school and back again.
It’s when my boys talk to me.
Those drives to school reveal what they’re worried about for the coming day. In those minutes, they spill their anxieties and excitement about what’s to come.
On the way home, they’ll vent about their frustrations and perceived injustices. They’ll tell me jokes and funny stories from their day. More often than not, they’ll give me insights about their classmates and teachers. I’ll even find out if they got in minor trouble, those little things that don’t justify punishment or a call home and would be easy enough for them to never tell me about. But in the safe bubble of my SUV, they talk to me. Really talk.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like they’re giving me the silent treatment otherwise. They’ll occasionally plop down at the kitchen table to chat while I’m cooking or cleaning. And we have family dinners most nights. But at 10 and 13, they’re pulling away from me a little more each day. They no longer give me the blow-by-blow, like they did in kindergarten.
I know I’m lucky. Not everyone has the option to drive their kids to school. I get it, for three years we were a one-car family. But right now I have a vehicle, I work from home and have the freedom and flexibility to drive them; plus, I’m fortunate it’s not a long or tedious route but a simple, straight-shot through town.
Maybe I’m depriving my children of important social skills. Maybe I’m spoiling them. Maybe they’d be better off taking the bus everyday. Who knows?
And while it’s not the most convenient or cost-effective or even environmentally correct option, I’ll keep on driving my kids to school. It gives me a chance to listen and get to know them better. To understand them a little more. And enjoy a few precious moments together each day before we head off on our separate ways.