It’s that time of year again…back to school. This year I am not looking forward to it as I have in years past, because this year my first “baby” will be going into middle school. When did fifth grade become middle school? I didn’t get to start middle school until I was in the seventh grade, and even in the seventh grade it all seemed overwhelming to me. Not my Virginia. She has always been very independent. This child is so independent that at age four, when she started pre-kindergarten in the public schools, she wanted to ride the school bus and not be driven to school. So when I let her ride the school bus for the first time, I followed the bus to the school in my car. Once there, I parked then walked up to where the children were getting off the bus at the school. As Virginia got off the bus, she took one look at me and sternly yelled “Don’t follow me!” Yes, at age four, she was already Ms. Independent.
So once again I am the nervous mom putting my baby on the bus. But this time, it’s not just any old school bus. This time she will be attending a magnet school downtown. The magnet schools where we live rely on public transportation…aka city buses. I work downtown; however, I am not able to pick her up after school. Therefore, she will be riding a city bus to my office each day after school. I feel like the mother eagle watching her eaglet learning to fly for the first time. Why should I be worried? After all, I am a regular mass transit rider myself, so having my daughter ride the city buses should be simple, right? I’m not convinced yet. What is different for me, is that I ride both the train and the bus each day with other professionals who work downtown, and more than half of my fellow riders seem to work for the same employer as me. But when the clock is not chiming around those fabulous hours we call rush hour, the patrons of public transportation seem to change a little. This I got to witness first hand last week.
Last week, Virginia had her fifth grade orientation at school. I figured this would be a great time for me to orient her to the buses as well. So after her orientation was over, I decided to ride the bus with her to my office so that she could get a feel for the route and what to expect. The buses that leave the school go straight downtown to the central bus station. Once at the bus station, my tiny little 10-year old is required to change buses. This requires her to get off of landing A, go down a flight of stairs, and cross over to the other side of landing B. Luckily for our first run the bus station seemed rather empty, probably because it was the middle of a work day and school hasn’t started yet. We were alone until just moments before our bus arrived. As we went to step on the bus, two men rudely stepped in front of us and boarded before us. Not worth making a fuss over, but still very irritating. Whatever happened to common courtesy for women and children? Apparently it doesn’t exist at the bus station at high noon, if it exists at all.
Once on the bus, I noted that while there weren’t very many riders, we were the only females. Normally this may not bother me; however, the appearance of the males present were anything but the business professionals I am used to riding with daily. I could see the fear looming in my daughter’s eyes. I felt nervous for her. But I tried not to show my nervousness to her and proceeded to instruct her on her travels; always sit near the driver, what to do in certain situations, and to always pay attention to her surroundings so that she can ensure that she gets off at the right stop.
Despite our company on the bus, our trip was uneventful and we reached our destination unharmed. If these were the same circumstances my child would face each and every day, I would most likely become irrational and quit my job so that I could take her safely to and from school myself. Luckily, I have been assured by many parties that the scene at the bus station changes on school days, and dozens of children ride these same buses after school. My child will most likely never be alone. I will have to go on faith that this is an accurate statement and that her new routine will help her continue to grow into a confident young woman who isn’t afraid to venture out on her own. But I will still ride the bus with her one more time… on the first day of school. I am sure this will benefit me more than it will her. I hope that seeing the situation in it’s normal mode will ease my fears. Previous to this, I could never understand why parents would give a child a cell phone. Well, now I understand.