Don't listen to the words

Sydney and I went on our first bus ride yesterday.  And, once again, that book I'm reading came in handy. 

"Let's go home and get the car."

"Can't you just drive me to the school?"

"What if I find somebody's mother to pick me up every day?"

And, finally, that little squinting of the eyes and pulling the forearms over her chest and lightly shifting from foot to foot; left, right, left, right while saying, through her nose, "please don't make me ride the bus."  You've seen that very good impression of a small child come out of a teen.  Maybe your own teen didn't do it, but you know some teen that did that, knowing it wasn't going to work, but falling back on little kid behavior in an uncomfortable situation.

And, then, her coup de grace "Psychos ride the bus."

And, through all of it, I remained resolute, unyielding, and funny; joking and being excited about my first bus ride in about 25 years.  And refusing to let her spoil that for either one of us.

Because, despite the words and the faces and the complaints about how hot it was for the 5 minutes we waited for the bus to pick us up, there was excitement in her eyes.  Anticipation and anxiety all mixed together.  Anxiety about doing something new.  Anticipation about doing something new.  New opportunities.  No longer tied to the house, with no chance to leave unless one of us comes home.  And, scared poop-less at the prospect of being more independent.  I made sure, no matter how annoying it got, not to show any anxiety or let her anxiety affect me and my excitement about letting her be independent. 

We got on the bus and I said, very quietly, "I don't see any psychos.  Do you?"  "No.  Well, maybe the guy in the back that looks like Jesus on a bad hair day."  (her words, not mine.)

At the next stop a man got on.  Sydney said "He looks kinda psycho."  Me:  "No.  Look at his haircut and his fancy shoes.  He works in a bank."  Her:  "But his socks have dirt on them."  Me:  "So do mine."

At the next stop, a man got on all dressed in black.  Sydney:  "That guy's all in black.  He looks psycho."  Me:  "No, look at the jacket over his shoulder.  He's just a waiter.  He's not a psycho."

At the next stop, an old lady got on who was about as wide as she was tall and had a toothless smile from ear to ear and so much "happy" rolling off her that you couldn't help but smile back.  Me:  "There's our psycho."  Sydney:  "hmmpff"

We were on the bus all of 10 minutes, during which she complained that we were only going 10 miles an hour and she didn't understand why a lady that got on with us only rode a quarter mile and then got off..."why did she wait so long in the heat if she was just going 50 feet."

Another young woman, about Sydney's age also got on the bus at one of the stops and we speculated that she might also be going to basketball camp and sure enough, she was.  I asked Sydney if she made friends with her, but no, she did not.  Kids are so impractical. 

Anyway, when we got there, she wouldn't go in to the camp until her friend from middle school arrived...and I'm good with that.  What am I gonna say to her when I won't talk to strangers either.  I am modeling that behavior, whether I want to pass it on to her or not and I can't complain that she's doing it, too. 

After it was over, I asked her if the camp was good enough to make the bus ride worth it.  She decided it was.  So, we plan to do that more. 

Of course, this morning, Rob tells me that over night, her phone has died and she has to have a phone for me to feel comfortable with her riding the bus.  That really pissed me off because I actually went to considerable trouble to make this available to her and she just blew all that because she hasn't taken care of her phone.  Poor phone.  We all got phones just alike, at the same time, two years ago and mine and Rob's both look brand new.  Her's looks like it was used as a hockey puck at a grudge match on asphalt.  But, we'll get through that, too.  I guess that tomorrow, she'll have my phone for the day.


So, the whole bus thing is different in the southern U.S. than what I've observed in other places.  In other parts of the country, everybody rides public transportation.  I've ridden trains in NYC, Boston, Chicago and Cleveland and taken buses in those cities plus Atlanta.  Those cities have well organized public transportation.  But, in the south, where I grew up and including Austin, having your own car is a status symbol and only the very poor and people with disabilities (especially mental disabilities) and the homeless take the bus.  That's changing here in Austin as more and more people move from different parts of the country and expect good public transportation.  The city has responded with more routes so it doesn't take two hours to cross town now, like it did 25 years ago when I tried taking the bus to work because I was without a car.  And, more and more, the affluent choose to take public transportation to save on parking.  Most still have their cars, but it's more convenient sometimes not to take your car.  I know that there is still a capacity for something bad to happen on the bus.  But, I'm more worried about her having to cross that busy street than I am about anything happening at the bus stop or on the bus. 

And, the people on the bus represented a true cross of Austin culture as I described above.  Banker, housekeeper, waiter, high school student, college student, little old lady, Asian guy headed to the post office, and the friendliest driver you'd ever want to be picked up by, who was willing to help us understand the payment box and where to get off the bus (on in front, off in back) and welcomed us on the bus yesterday like we were new people who needed to be made comfortable in her home. 

All of that is going to be good for Sydney.  She needs to see more of that cross culture.  And, I have to trust that she has learned the rules of safety we've been teaching.  Crossing a busy street, sitting alone, avoiding eye contact with people you don't know, being comfortable in strange surroundings, keep your phone in hand.  All things that I didn't learn as a teen.  Lessons I want to pass on for her, to help her be more well-rounded.  To help her see that our way of living is not the only way there is.  And, that there are lots of people out there doing the best they can and that's good enough.  That way, when she's doing the best she can, she won't need to feel ashamed that it's not good enough.  Like I did.  And, she won't have to be afraid of everything outside her door like Bilbo Baggins...and me.

Everybody have a great Wednesday.  In continuing the kid theme for the week, she goes in for her physical this afternoon.  More vacation time burned.  Sheesh, will the parenting never stop???

I know the answer to that one.



Kim West said...

I have to say, Lane, I have been enjoying these posts about Sydney. I have been learning things from you as you learn them. I recieved the book yesterday, so thank you again.

I didint realize you live in Austin. I will be moving to San Antonio in a year. I grew up just north of Houston. Parts of me can't wait to move back to Texas, and parts are extremely nervous...

vivian said...

When we go on vacation I always want to ride "the bus" to see how the real people not the tourists live. The worst was Las Vegas. None of the glitter and excitement just way too many people packed into a bus. We actually got off and walked because the bus was way too packed and you had zero personal space!

Love your parenting stories!

Richard Healey said...

I am the parent of 2 teens and appriciate the pains you are going though. I do think its a good thing they learn how to use the bus. When I was in collage and we had only 1 car I survived on the bus getting me to school and work. My oldest son and soon my daughter will be ridding it every day to school (next year) the school district near our house uses public transportation for getting the kids to high school.

My wife Tanya also works for the local bus company which is nice (free bus passes for our family) Here in Salt Lake City Utah where I live we have bus, Tracks (light rail), and it has one heavy rail that connects city's north to down town and now they are building heavy rail south from the valley I live in to connect city's that way. Public transportation is an important thing in most growing city's as we soon will have more car's then spaces on the roads to drive them.


Shay said...

I loved reading about your verbal exchange with Sydney on the bus. This is going to be a good thing for her and at this stage you have to trust you've given her all the tools she needs to stay safe and enjoy the ride (literally!)

Bonnie K Hunter said...

from the time I was a teen I took the bus EVERYWHERE. I lived in San Jose, and by switching bus lines at the end of the line could get all the way up to San Francisco if I wanted -- of course it took more than 2 hours...not fast -- but CHEAP! At that time, a day pass was something like 20 cents.

Coloradolady said...

Oh. Lane. If this teaching thing gets out of control...my offer still stands.....at least there will be no psychos involved!!!

I am learning lots from you...maybe I will be a better grandparent than I was a parent!

Please caution her again and remind her she can not be too careful. Ever. I hope Austin is a lot safer than what they broadcast over the news here and in Dallas.....can you tell I am a worry wart!!!

Cynthia L. said...

I am glad that Sydney is learning the bus system and learning to be more independent. The baby took the bus while working at an internship and made a few mistakes and ended up on the bus for a lot longer than she should have. I can tell you, those mistakes were never made again! It sounds like this was a great adventure for you. Sydney is so lucky to have parents like you and Rob. She may not realize it now, but one day.....

Cathi said...

I rode the city bus while in high school and to my first jobs thereafter. Of course that was more than 50 years ago & times have changed for sure. I'm sure she will relish the independence once she gets comfortable with it.

PS. The parenting never stops..my kids are 40 & 49.....LOL

Lanie said...

Hello! I've been lurking on your blog for a while, but haven't posted before. I also live in Austin. I love the bus and ride it all the time, and have been doing so since I moved here in 2005, even though I have a car. Perhaps it is my circles, but among my friends, bus use is common and not stigmatized at all. It's way more convenient than parking. As a younger woman, I have never felt unsafe, and think it's great to teach your kid to use it to get around. On the express route I take sometimes in the morning, there are several middle-school aged kids who ride every day. It's a great way for kids to have more independence!

Anonymous said...

My first words to blurt out are: What a great parent! second: no you never stop worrying( he's 27)and finally, every big city has it's trouble - just make sure she only rides in daylight- not after dark.Oh and take better care of that phone! Sorry another worrywart grandparent.
Nina in BC