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.