Tag Archives: kids

She Wants to Ride the School Bus, but It’s Not Working

This cartoon popped up in my Twitter feed via @BrentTodarian. I haven't found the artist yet.
This cartoon Yehuda Moon cartoon (produced by Rick Smith & Brian Griggs) sums it up – but for parents making this decision every morning, it’s not quite so simple.

“It’s not the first two streets that are the problem; she can cross those. It’s that last street, because it doesn’t have a stop sign. And people drive SO fast through town.”

We stood in one small circle of conversation among many others, the room buzzing with questions about the first week of school. Flocks of small children swooped around our legs, swiping cups of lemonade before flying off to bring mayhem to some formerly-quiet corner of the church.

“It’s frustrating, because I really, really wanted her to ride the bus to school. It’s good for her to learn to take the bus and to have that independence, and to know that if she’s not out there on time she’ll miss it.”

I play with the edges of the paper coffee cup, folding the handle up and down as I listen. The coffee is thick and almost greasy somehow, leaving its mark on the sides of the cup.

“But I have other kids, too – honestly, if I have to wake them up anyway to walk her to the bus stop, it’s just easier to stick them in their car seats.”

Yes, the agony of organizing multiple children for school runs. Pulling the sleeping child out from under their blankets, draping that floppy, unwilling weight over your shoulder as you run out the door, returning to the house to pull a second droopy kid from bed. Tears falling from those bleary eyes, always, mama frazzled and late.

We talked through a couple of possibilities. There aren’t any other kids on her block going to the same bus stop, so a walking school bus (uh… to the school bus?) is out. The problem is that one street that’s hard to cross.

Almost all of the east-west streets around here stop at every intersection, but the north-south streets normally go eight blocks or so between stop signs. Of course, this means that traffic on these streets is much faster and that they’re more difficult and dangerous to cross. They’re designed so that people passing through by car can make good time – but they don’t add value to our neighborhoods.

I can think of three women just off the top of my head this morning who are driving their kids to school because there is a street too busy for their child to cross. I accompany my capable children every day for this same reason. The profound irony of this, of course, is that 20% or more of morning traffic is made up of parents doing just that. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

When we begin to talk about a Montessori City, we’re talking about a place where kids can practice age-appropriate behaviors without being unnaturally constrained by their environment. This is entirely do-able, but it’s going to require us to make some changes – and the sooner we allow our kids to live full lives right in their own neighborhoods, the better off our whole community will be down the road.

“It takes me seven minutes to walk her to the bus stop, longer if her little brother insists on walking. It takes me ten minutes to drive her to school. I think I’ll let her take the bus home, but I’m going to start driving her to school. This just isn’t working.

Three Ways to Love on ALL the Kids Starting School

DSCF6396 They walk off this morning, bright backpacks on their backs and sweet-smelling lunchboxes in their hands (heaven knows those things won’t smell so good at Christmastime). Bouncing down the sidewalk with first-day enthusiasm, excited about new friends and new work. I trail behind, snapping pictures and wondering how it is that these kids who climbed into our bed every single night for years on end are suddenly so confident. So BIG.

We walk with them today, and probably will every day this year. It’s a walk they could easily manage, but you know – traffic.

And so, here’s what I hope the people who drive through my neighborhood this year do as they go on their way to drop off their own little babies-turned-big. (Last year I was one of those driving through, so I get the challenges.)

  • Hide their phone from themselves.
    We saw it already this morning, the good guy we know talking on his cell phone as he breezed through the crosswalk. We can do this. We can put our phones down, turn them off, set them to airplane mode, when we’re going somewhere. It feels like we’re cutting off an appendage, but you know how Jesus said that if a part of your body was getting you in trouble you’d be better off without it? This counts.
  • Slow down.
    I won’t belabor this because we’ve talked about it before and will again, but the human body is not designed for collisions with steel and fiberglass. An adult body considers anything above 20 mph a high speed. With kids, it’s even worse. For every single mile per hour faster we drive – yes, really, in increments that small – there’s a dramatic and measurable increase in the likelihood that a person hit by our car will die. We don’t want that. You don’t want that. We don’t want that for our communities, and we don’t want a kid who makes a mistake to pay for that mistake with his or her life. That’s not the kind of people we are. So let’s slow down.
  • Chill out.
    Some of the worst behavior I’ve ever seen in adult humans has been while waiting in the car line in the past couple years. Honking, yelling, cutting people off, swerving around the whole car line at ridiculous speeds while there are kids walking around – insane. One of the most frustrating pieces of driving is getting stuck in traffic we don’t expect, and we want to make up the time. But it’s not worth it. Let’s keep our cool.

    We can do this, and it’s worth it. Why? Because we believe in the beauty, the potential and the right-now awesomesauce of every kid starting their new school adventure this fall. We believe in the futures of the children pulling up in minivans and in the futures of the children who are skidding up on Huffys. We watch out for our kids – ALL of our kids – because as a community, that’s who we are.

  • Snow Day Survival Guide, including a free printable!

    Adorable. Fresh, clean snow.
    Adorable. Fresh, clean snow.

    If you’re all in a panic because your kids are going mad and you don’t have a thing prepared for them to do on the millionth snow day in a row, go on ahead and skip to the end. I won’t tell!

    This winter is no joke.

    It’s snowed every single day since forever. We haven’t had school since last Wednesday, and wind chills for today are forecast to hit about -30F (which is -34C – we’ve almost converged!).

    But what do you do? There are only so many days you can spend huddled inside waiting for spring, especially if you live with lots of little humans.

    There’s something to be said for celebrating the place you live, crazy climate and all. In honor of our fourth straight snow day, I’m offering a few hints on getting outside to enjoy this unique weather with a free printable below to wrap it up.

    Dress in layers.

    And I mean lots of them. Two pair of socks; leggings, long underwear, or fleece tights under jeans; undershirt, long-sleeved shirt, and sweater – this is your base layer. Then add your boots, snowpants, hat, mittens or gloves, and scarf. It’s so much easier to enjoy being out in the snow if you’re dressed for it!

    Stay out of the wind.

    Play on the sheltered side of the house and avoid open areas – it will make a tremendous difference in how long you’re able to stay outside. Good old-fashioned snow forts make great windblocks, too.

    Come in for warming breaks.

    This is a new one to me that came from a woman who grew up in Alaska. You can get outside in some crazy cold weather, you just need to come in periodically to let your skin warm up. So send the kids out for twenty minutes – or better yet, join them, the fresh air will do you good too! – then come back in for five or ten minutes to warm up and head right back out. Go ahead and leave the gear on and your sanity may actually remain intact.

    Activity for Desperate Parents

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    Now, for that moment when you really need to go inside, I created – ahem – a printable. It’s a poem called The Snowman which I’ve formatted as a booklet for the kiddos to illustrate. It requires the ability to do double-sided printing but otherwise needs absolutely no preparation ahead of time. It is appropriate for preschoolers and young grade-schoolers (my kids are 5 and 7 and enjoyed it; the 2-year-old took a yogurt bath and decorated my kitchen with cinnamon rather than participate).

    Get it while it’s hot (hahahahahaaa):

    The Snowman: Click here to download!

    Additional Activity for the Exceptionally Motivated or Desperate

    Again, this needs no preparation ahead of time. Grab some kind of dish with sides from the kitchen – a cookie sheet with a lip, casserole dish, pie plate, that sort of thing – and bring it outside to put some snow in. Make a miniature snowman. (If you live around here you might need to let the snow warm up a little for it to pack.) Then watch it melt, just like the snowman in the book (hopefully it won’t traumatize your little artistes!). A lesson in solid and liquid states.

    UPDATE! What’s a snow day without a video?

    Many thanks to Sammy for this suggestion. Head on over there if you love to escape through adoption stories. 🙂

    See? You covered nature, literature, and science today. Win!

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    More on helping kids thrive in:
    Ten Reasons for Your Child to Walk to School
    The Courage of Children
    The Capability of Children
    Car Time to School Keeps Kids from Concentrating

    Something for Everybody (Wednesday’s Words)

    Something for Everybody - Jacobs

    I ran across this quote in an article about allowing our kids to inform our observations about our places. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. When I was five, I walked to school every day by myself. There was one busy street I needed to cross, but I have to think it wasn’t as busy as the streets in our town are now.

    Yesterday as I was walking CJ in to school, she asked, “When can I walk to school by myself?” She craves that independence, that ability to do something by herself. And though I fully support her in this – we’ve explored before how essential this is to a child’s developing abilities, how it affects her cognitive development, how other cultures actively encourage this independence – the traffic on our local streets runs fast. The streets are wide and difficult to cross. There are no crossing guards in the morning (and not enough in the afternoon). We’ve made a city for the able-bodied, but there’s no place here for my little girl and her burgeoning sense of independence.

    Jane Jacobs takes this one step further and encourages us to consider a city that is actually created BY everybody. I don’t know exactly what this looks like, but how much healthier would our places be if this were something we strived for? Maybe I’ll ask the girls today. What does a city made for you look like?

    What Happened on the Way to School: What YOU Thought

    Friends, I can’t thank you enough for your feedback on that post about how I was nearly hit near CJ’s school. I love that we can have this conversation as a community, and hope that those of you who prefer not to comment publicly will feel free to email me at tulip(dot)lane(at)outlook(dot)com.

    Now, what you said. I pulled these both from the comments section and my personal Facebook page.

    First of all, it’s clear that this type of experience is NOT unique to me. One of my thoughts in the middle of this experience was about why all this weird stuff always happened to ME. What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t this happen to anybody else? Well. Let’s see what you said:

    In the most intensive year of my life as a pedestrian (Chicago, 2011-2012) I was actually hit by a car once while running (minor thing, thank goodness) and had a car clip the front of [my son’s] stroller once. Yes. When you walk more, there’s more chance to experience this kind of crazy.

    I’ll have to tell you about the time I was walking my kids to school and hit the trunk of a car with my hand while in the crosswalk because they didn’t give us the right-of-way…

    I too have done something like that! Also, one of my friends said her normally calm husband finally walked out to the front of their house one day and yelled at the drivers going too fast to “SLOW DOWN” because there were kids around! Sometimes we just HAVE to speak up!

    My takeaway is that when we get out of our cars, we frequently experience the public realm as a a hostile place. We don’t typically seek out confrontation, but when we travel by foot or on bike it seems to become unavoidable. That’s clearly a problem.

    I think the fact that the driver had been confronted and punched in the face before is a huge red flag! She obviously drives in an aggressive manner and either isn’t aware or doesn’t care to change. I think you were right to confront her.

    I think you did the right thing because when no one calls someone out for improper behavior, it is as if we are encouraging said behavior to continue…

    I believe that pedestrians and bicyclists, by extension feel vulnerable and exposed. I applaud you for trying to strike up a dialogue. We need to do that more often and not feel like we were in the wrong even when it’s not our fault. We are quick to blame cyclists and walkers for pushing the boundaries when we do it often in our cars and don’t seem to notice that. (Emphasis mine.)

    I thought it was interesting that everyone who commented thought that confronting her was an appropriate response, because I really questioned myself on this point. After I read that last comment above, I figured out why: In my gut, I felt like I was on the wrong because I had been crossing the street. This floors me. I, of all people, have so thoroughly internalized the message our surroundings give that I feel like I’m breaking a rule by crossing the freaking road? What the heck?

    The question that remains is the most important one, though – was this conversation effective? And this is where I think Shelly absolutely nailed it:

    …learning the genuine art of non-violent communication with these aggressive people is helpful, and can also teach others how to handle their unruliness and regain some humanity.

    I don’t think our conversation was completely successful. It led to surface reconciliation, but I’m not convinced that she thought she had done anything wrong or processed that her actions had put me in danger. In fact, I think she may have still felt wronged by me because I acted like I didn’t think she was going to stop. (Gah. That still frustrates me, a week later.) The communication aspect is another post entirely, but I do think it’s key to the conversation. There’s a solid summary of the technique here.

    I’m going to end with something Michael said – a reminder and challenge to both myself and all of you.

    The more we walk and ride our bikes, the more considerate we will be around other pedestrians and cyclist. Keep up the dialogue.

    Playground (Wordless Wednesday)

    http://instagram.com/p/YvXZ4Zr1cv/

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    We pulled up to the playground Monday and found that we weren’t the only ones who had biked there! Good friends of ours happened to be there as well.

    ***
    Ticket sales have picked up for Dinner and Bikes. If you’d like to go, order here right away!