Thursday, February 9, 2012

What, really?

I'm going to step out of the box on this one, as this blog will contain very few kid anecdotes and instead is going to touch on something that completely baffled me today. The kids and I drove to my husband's home town to spend the day with my mother in law and had a nice morning and afternoon. We left around 2:30 so I could miss as much Boston traffic as possible.

As I prepared to pull out of the driveway, Mary called out that she hadn't buckled the last part of her car seat yet. I gritted my teeth, not because I was annoyed with her but because I had to wait for the yellow school bus chugging down the road to go past and everyone knows how annoying it can be be to get stuck behind a bus. Fortunately, the thing looked mostly empty.

It stopped at the corner, where a woman was waiting at a stop sign with a puppy on a leash. A few boys got off. I'm not sure how old they were but one had an instrument case so I'm guessing fourth or fifth grade. Then the bus took a left, and so did I. There was less than an eighth of a mile before the main road.

In that short space, the bus stopped twice. Once was less than a house's length away from the stop sign where it originally stopped. Two kids got off. Then the bus moved down literally two houses and stopped again, letting one more kid off the bus before continuing to the main road, where it traveled past my exit and I lost track of it.

This is going to be very "you kids get off my lawn!" but really? Really? When I was a kid the only bus stop in the neighborhood was up the road and around the corner, on the main road. It was easily a several minute walk from home and while parents usually accompanied the little kids, by upper elementary, certainly middle school, you were on your own. Certainly no buses were traveling down the residential roads to pick up each kid door to door. And when I called my mother in law to express my amazement at what I had just seen, she confirmed that the elementary aged version of my husband had to hoof it to catch the bus in his day, too.

I have to wonder what purpose this serves. If the kid in question is too young to be home alone, then he's not going to get dropped at home unless someone is there to meet him. If someone is there to meet him, why can't said someone meet him at a communal bus stop? If this is too much of an issue, why can't parents/sitters/whoever in the neighborhood take turns waiting for the bus at a stop?

I look at schools plagued by budget cuts, lack of funding, losses of resources, and then I see a bus taking three times as long as it could otherwise take driving kids home. We already take away gym class and limit recess, now we're sticking kids on a bus for longer than they should be and refusing them the chance to walk even the length of a city block. And this isn't a high crime town by any stretch of the imagination. Who asked for this? Parents? The schools? I can't imagine it was the kids or the bus drivers. What purpose does it serve?

I never thought I would feel grateful that my kids live within walking distance of a school. I probably won't feel grateful when it's cold and snowing and I'm trying to convince a three year old to walk along as I take her older sisters to class. But I honestly can't see the point of valet service to and from school. My mother didn't even drive us to the bus stop unless it was dangerously cold. "By the time I got the car warmed up you'd be on the bus," she would say. "We all have coats and boots. You're young! You're supposed to love the cold."

Back then I would have loved a bus to get me at my door. But I knew that was crazy. Even at seven I knew I would be on the bus for hours if every kid got picked up at their door and living in a somewhat rural town, I was already on that thing for a half an hour after school.

I know, I know. And here's where I tell you I walked uphill both ways to that bus stop and the snow was three feet deep, and we shot our own dinner or starved. But either I'm getting older or society is getting ridiculous.

It's probably both.


  1. Due to recent deaths, any roads that are considered busy -main roads, speed limits over 25, lack of sidewalks, etc. - now pick up kids at their door.

  2. Except the roads she refers to are 25 mph tiny back roads. Makes no sense at all!

  3. Ahhh yes, the suburban school buses... when I was a nanny, the youngest kid I cared for got picked up/dropped off at the house.

    But somehow I usually ended up driving and picking up the older one at his school. Despite the horrifically slow pick-up line we'd usually try to beat the youngest kid's bus home. Heh. Nanny fail.