Meet my Inner Superhero

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When my son was ready to go to daycare, he started a few days a week until he got used to it. I waited until he was ready to go for the full week before I returned to work.

I didn’t send him away to sleepover camp until he was sure he could do it. And he didn’t go for a full month session until he told me he wanted to.

I have always waited until he is ready to take the next step toward freedom. I have never pushed him out of the nest before I was sure he could fly.

Until now. Yesterday was his first day in grade 4. My husband and I decided that, rather than letting him take the bus on his first day, we would drive him. Good thing we did. No one told us, but the bus no longer comes to get him. At nine years old, and at 1.2 km from the school, he is considered old enough to walk alone, through downtown, past some pretty dangerous characters and intersections. The powers that be at the bus authority never told us this. The school didn’t warn us. We found out because he was told he couldn’t get on the bus to go to his afterschool program yesterday.

You would think that sending a kid to wander the streets alone would be a decision for parents to make. But you’d be wrong.

I may have sounded a bit curt when the school called and told me my options are to make him walk or to drive him. The latter seems a huge step backward considering kids start travelling to school alone on the bus in kindergarten; why would I start driving him now? And the former, well, obviously I’m not too happy about how that has been handled. The bus association could have sent a letter. Or the school. There are Walking School Bus groups at other schools; given enough notice, the parents could have organized something.

With no time to come up with alternatives, I walked my son half the distance this morning, then sent him on his less-than-merry way. I assured him he was ready for this. He didn’t agree. I stood and watched guiltily as he crossed the street and rounded the corner out of sight. I was pretty sure he would make it to school safely from that point but I hated watching him go when he didn’t feel ready.

I was feeling like the worst parent in the world and second-guessing my decision not to walk him the whole way when I recognized two kids approaching. Their mothers were walking behind them and at first I thought, “I bet those mothers are walking all the way to school with their kids. They must be better mothers than me.”

But then my long-lost inner superhero slapped me upside the head. In an uncharacteristically extroverted move, I waved them down, introduced myself and asked if my son could walk with them in the future. The mothers were thrilled; they had had the same nasty surprise and were also wondering how to find a sustainable solution. So, from now on, their kids will walk to our house and I will help all three cross the first busy street, just around the corner, then they will walk together and I will head to work.

It’s win-win all around.

Now I’m off to use my heroic superpowers on the school and the bus authority.




27 thoughts on “Meet my Inner Superhero

  1. I find lack of communication from our district to be one of the worst things with the school. Most problems don’t need to be problems if only we were told in advance. Sounds like you found a great solution!

  2. Oh man, OCDSB is the worst when it comes to communicating this stuff! Wouldn’t it have been nice to have some time to prepare him – or talk to other parents before it became urgent? That said, I think you handled it beautifully. You should feed your superhero some chocolate. (I can even help, if you like?)

    If it’s any consolation, we got to school yesterday only to find out the SKs don’t start until Thursday. But none of the parents had received a letter indicating that. I don’t know what they did with the kids that bus.

    • I think chocolate is definitely in order! Sounds like you and a host of other parents could do with some, too. I assume the bussed kids’ parents from your school were called to come get them – because none of us work or anything!

      Time to prepare him, prepare ourselves, organize something – all would be very useful in this sort of situation. I don’t even think it was OCDSB so much as it was OSTA. The school sounded pretty surprised, too. Though this is something they should be on top of and aware of, so they definitely need to be more organized.

      Thanks for your words of encouragement. I keep imagining his angry/sad/scared little face as he walked away.

  3. Oh man. Seriously, school districts? I remember when they changed the bus schedules on us without notice when I was in 7th grade and my little sister in 4th (so we weren’t at the same school, but we rode the same bus because our town was so small… until suddenly we didn’t). So disruptive- and dangerous!

    • Ugh, it’s like fighting a losing battle to hear that this is par for the course. But, it’s my battle now 🙂 What’s with them!? Yeah, they’re underfunded but, really, they can’t even send out a letter? Or an email if the paper’s too expensive?

  4. Ugh, school system transportation is absolute mess. I know that school systems are trying to do the best they can and come up with “creative” solutions to big challenges with serious budget cuts, but (again) UGH. I am so excited that you found a good solution! I hope the kids get along and become more than just walking buddies.

    Go mom!!!

  5. Such a frightening situation!! I’m so glad this worked out. You are so brave to have initially felt he could do this alone. I have seen all these articles floating around the web about how over-protective we are in the US (not really sure if Canada is the same), and that 7 year olds ride the subway in Japan, and parents leave baby carriages outside in Denmark, or wherever. It’s just different in our cultures, to be more reserved and protective with our kids. It’s tough to break that habit! I have been trying to work at this over the last few months–stopping myself from doing things for my son, talking for him, etc… While I drive my son to school–we live in the country and no ability to walk– I”m trying to get him to go in w/out me coming too but he hasn’t liked that idea just yet…we’ll take it in stages. I think 4th grade is a good time to start experimenting. Let us know how it goes!

    • Thanks Robin! We’ve read all those articles – I even included a link to one in my email to the transportation authority – and we aren’t over-protective at all, though Canada is essentially the same as the US. We let him walk the 3 blocks home from his after school program. We let him go to buy milk at the corner store. We let him play in the park for an hour at a time on his own. But those were our decisions, as parents, based on what we know from living in this neighbourhood and what we know about our son. I have serious problems with being forced into something out of our comfort zone by some faceless transportation authority, and especially without any warning. At least it got the two boys together, though, and maybe it will be good for him in the end. I’ve heard walking to school increases focus and productivity in the classroom.

  6. Wow Tienne, that’s something else. I’d have been so mad! My 10yo has taken the bus since he was 6, but now that we just moved, he walks. School just started last week and I’ve been walking with him because even though he’s in 5th grade, he doesn’t know anyone and is still adjusting. Then in middle and hs, it’s back to the bus since we live more than 2 miles from those schools. I’m glad you found a solution so quickly! And? It’s so fun to see you on the challenge grid! I hope you come back again (I know how hard it is to post to all three grids. I usually can’t manage that!).

    • Thanks Stacie! The newspaper has already called back, so that has definitely cheered me up from my earlier, madder state of mind 🙂

      I had been thinking about the challenge grid (before the prizes were offered, I’d like to stress!) but I didn’t really feel I had anything worth writing. Then this whole bus thing happened. I’m struggling with my speakeasy entry, too, so it was good procrastination 🙂 But, yeah, since I start work next week, I don’t think I’ll be posting to all three at the same time for a while!

  7. “I was pretty sure he would make it to school safely from that point…”

    With all the thoughts flying through my head, I’m usually “pretty sure” my kids will be okay. But “pretty sure” doesn’t always comfort, you know? I’m glad you found a workable solution — and I’m sure the walks with the other kids will turn out to be memories made and kept.

    • Thanks for noticing that I wrote “pretty sure.” I originally just wrote “sure” but the thing is, I wasn’t totally sure and I wanted to accurately capture how I felt as I thought about him walking alone. He did make it to school safely but he told me this morning he was crying as he walked away from me. Poor thing!! He’s happy now that he has a friend to walk with and was all smiles as they headed off together.

  8. I live a few blocks from school and can’t imagine them walking there by themselves. I’m so glad you found a solution to this. There is safety in numbers not to mention new bonds of friendship are priceless.

    • Yeah, it’s crazy that the transportation authority can just decide something like that for you. He does walk home from his after school program, but that just illustrates further I think how different and inappropriately dangerous the walk to school is. Otherwise, I would have had him doing it already. At least he left with a smile on his face today, happy that he had a friend.

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