Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why I Don't Walk My Kids to the Bus Stop

My kids' bus stop is on the corner of our yard. Our house is situated far back on our property so it's still probably a 50-yard walk from our front door, but I can still see the stop from my window.

For the first few days of school, I walked with them to the bus stop in the morning and met them as they got off the bus in the afternoon. After that they knew the routine and were comfortable doing it by themselves, so I stopped.

There's still one other mom who goes with her daughter to our stop every day, but one day her daughter was sick so there was no adult waiting when my 3rd and 5th graders' bus pulled up. 

And the driver would not let them off because I wasn't there.

I was furious. I really couldn't believe it. My kids are 8 and 10 years old, more than capable and more than old enough to walk 50 yards in a straight line to the door without adult supervision.

So I waited for the bus on the second go-round as it doubled back past our house. The driver was flustered as he explained why he didn't drop my kids off the first time.

Apparently there is no other child on our bus route whose parent doesn't wait for them at the bus stop every day.

(At this point, my eyes were practically rolling out of my head. Kids the same age in cities not far from here 150 years ago were walking a mile to and from the textile mill to work a 10-hour day.)

In what I hoped was a very polite voice, I asked the driver if I could give him my permission to drop my kids off regardless of whether I'm waiting at the bus stop.

He looked at me funny and said he'd need a written note. So I sent him one the next day, by way of my children the next morning (who were able to find the bus stop and get the note to him without my assistance!)

Now I don't know. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe every other parent on the bus route is right.

But the biggest part of me just wants to scream: What are we so afraid of?

Capitalizing on our children's constant mortal peril.
Stranger abductions are very rare. We've discussed keeping out of the street while they wait for the bus. Is this about real danger, or irrational fear?

Maybe the driver was simply worried that I wasn't home. But honestly, even if I wasn't, my 8- and 10-year-old would've been fine letting themselves in and getting started on their homework  or going to a neighbor if they found themselves locked out.

Recently I found myself reading an interesting article at Salon. Our culture has this perception that this world is an extremely dangerous place for children. Not only do we think they aren't capable of taking care of themselves (even though many times, they are,) but that we're negligent parents if we're not going nuts to protect them at all times.

Because of this pressure, we refuse to let them play in our own yards unless we are right there and we hover under them with outstretched hands while they cross the monkey bars.

I'm not going to lie, it's hard to smile nonchalantly when other moms give me the stink-eye because I allow my preschooler to roam freely on the playground. She climbs the equipment without my help unless she calls for it, and as a result is totally comfortable on the "big kid" ladders. I don't watch her like a hawk every second. As long as I can locate her every once in a while, I'm not terribly concerned she'll be stolen if I chat with a friend for a few minutes.

For whatever reason, we arbitrarily label some activities as dangerous and some not. I suppose I let my kids engage in risky activities all the time, including playing sports, swimming, eating grapes, riding bikes, going outside, trick-or-treating, crossing the street, and riding in vehicles. Oops.

The thing is, my 8- and 10-year old are already prone to doubting their own capabilities. They don't need me to encourage that. I like to think of myself as being in the business of raising confident adults, not just shielding children from risk.

Why I Don't Walk My Kids to the Bus Stop -- If I interfere when no significant danger exists, I create a far more harmful situation: one where my kids grow up believing they can't do challenging things on their own.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}When we go sledding, there's always someone who's afraid to go down the hill. I put on a big smile and say, "The worst thing that could happen is that you'll fall in the snow and get back on your sled!"

Which I know isn't exactly true.

The worst thing is that they could get a concussion, break an arm or a leg, or even die. I know there are fatal sledding accidents every year. Something serious could happen if I send them down the sledding hill. But it probably won't.

If I interfere when no significant danger exists, I create a far more harmful situation: one where my kids grow up believing they can't do challenging things on their own.

Or worse, that they can't even do something as simple as walking from the bus stop to our front door.

If I interfere when no significant danger exists, I create a far more harmful situation: one where my kids grow up believing they can't do challenging things on their own.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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Unknown said...

You are being a GOOD PARENT in preparing your children for the real world. Confident, responsible adults are what our world needs.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the driver was worried he'd be blamed if anything goes wrong. I'm a NANA now and love my girlie assesses risks and gives her little man space to grow.

Anonymous said...

Great post!! Helicopter parents are making every one else look negligent for being normal!! Yes, the world is a scary place sometimes! But you have the right attitude! Pray for God's protection, and teach them to do stuff for themselves. I kinda see the bus driver's point, people get sued ALL the time for the stupidest things. So, hopefully the written note worked.

Jenny Evans said...

It's a funny world we live in, isn't it? I just think that every parent should be able to weigh the actual risks against the capabilities of their child and decide what they can and can't do without supervision.

Unknown said...

In our state (Illinois) the minimum age for a child to stay home alone for any length of time is 14. 14! WTH? I was babysitting at age 13. I don't understand that at all. It's ridiculous.

Jenny Evans said...

Wow, that's pretty old! My kids have been ready to take care of themselves at home for periods of time between the ages of 8-10, depending on their individual personalities.

Katelyn Fagan said...

I love this post! Soooo much. I agree with you and also cannot believe no other parent goes to the bus stop. Most buses stop like right in front of everyone's dang house anyway, so what are we afraid of?

Unknown said...

You are a new to me blog and this is the first link I clicked on after the 7 quick takes. After reading this, I know you are my kind of mom. Subscribing now.

Jenny Evans said...

You mean there are more than a few of us? That's awesome, I'm glad to have you aboard.

kaustin said...

I do not let my first grader walk to the bus stop by herself because I don't trust the parents and some of the kids there. Mainly, I don't trust the couple parents who are helicopter parents. One mom last year, followed the kindergarten bus, we only had half day at the time, to the school which is literally a minute away by car and watched as he walked into the school. I do let her walk home from school which I get the stink eye for. It is less than a block and she is a good kid. Someone told me that it was unsafe because she had to walk in front of the bus to get to the sidewalk by herself. The horrors.
We have a huge park near us that we go to sometime. I like that is is larger so that the helicopter parents have a harder time helicoptering my kids. My three year old figured out how to get in and out of the park bathroom by waiting for someone to open the door for her. Unfortunately, it was the men's bathroom as I found out when a man walked by relieved that she did have a mother. I was really proud that she had figured it out on her own although, I did tell her to let me know next time so I could steer her to the appropriate bathroom and open the door for her. Sorry this is long but I am a strong proponent of letting my children do as many things on their own as they can.

kaustin said...

and it drives me insane that I get a lot of flack for it.

Peggy said...

The job of a parent is to teach their child to be independent. If a 1 year old can't walk 50 yards unsupervised, how will they ever go away to college?

Anonymous said...

I feel like this article in a whole is lazy parenting. I dont stay with my children at the bus stop because I am a helicopter parent, I do it because they are my responsibility, not anyone else's. I found it funny that she said they can just go to a neighbor if I'm not home and they are locked out. Uh, no, it's not your neighborys job to watch your children because you can't set up for someone to be at your house and let them in, or have time management for that matter. Sounds like she's counting on probability that they will grow up without anything happening to them. Not very smart.

Anonymous said...

Helicopter mom here chiming in. Not only would I not let my kid walk to the bus without me, I wouldn’t even send my kid on the bus because there ain’t a stranger on this earth that I trust with my kids. Homeschool all 10 of mine, and yes, they turned out fine and can make there way through the world without mommy now, but I didn’t want them to when they were 8 and 10 years old.