School started this week in our little city. Having bought the new house last Spring, we had the joy of switching school districts. Our oldest son has been excited all summer about the new school for first grade, the new friends, and... the bus. I was also excited about the bus; he didn't ride last year and I envisioned so much more free time without the drop off and pick up and wait, wait, wait. That is, I was excited about the bus until I learned that the bus held Kindergarten through 12th grade. Uh, no thanks.
I'm thankful that a neighborhood teen told me this, or I would never have known. It's just not something I considered asking or ever thinking to ask. I immediately put my foot down. I may have said something like, "Oh, hell no." But not near my always-listening-oldest-son's ears, for that is one reason why I couldn't send him off on a bus with tweens and teens.
I immediately thought of Karen the bus monitor. I'll be honest: I can't watch that video without crying. I want to hug her, and tell those bullying brats a thing or two. But... the truth is, while I wasn't a bully on the bus (or off, and especially not to my elders), I maybe used some choice language when I was in middle school and high school. I know. Shocking, right? Don't tell my mother-in-law. I did. I cussed with the best of them -- on the bus, off the bus, around younger children (especially my younger brother). I was so cool. Or so I thought. What I was, in fact, was a peer-pressure bending, I-sure-hope-I-fit-in, conforming little punk who didn't understand much of anything, let alone things like the weight of words and how we are judged, sometimes properly so, by what we say.
So, yes, there's the issue of the words that teenagers use to describe their lives, their days, in discussion with one another. I realize that elementary school students can also choose to use ugly words, whether they have older siblings or parents who use them or, you know, ears. I get it. But still, there are other issues of difference between elementary aged kids and those older kids.
And it's sex.
Don't shake your head at me. In 2003, when my much-younger brother was still in middle school, two 7th graders had sex on a bus in the school district in which we grew up. No, really. Since the world wants us to believe that "today's kids" are so much worse than "the way we used to be," I am made to believe I should be fearing all out sex orgies on my kid's bus in the year 2012. While we've had discussions about inappropriate touching and saying no and how babies are (and are not) made, I just don't know if I want to expose him to the way teens talk so casually about one another. As we stood in line behind some teens at an amusement park recently, I was just horrified by the way two young males were talking to and about one female who was standing there, smiling as though nothing was wrong with it. I'd kind of like for my kid not to refer to his female friends' tits and pussy for awhile. Is that so wrong?
Maybe the kids who ride the bus out through the country road and into our neighborhood are upstanding young citizens. Maybe they never cuss. Maybe they have taken vows to wait until later to have sex, let alone talk about someone else's body parts in crass ways. Maybe the bus driver keeps a firm handle on the language and actions that take place on her bus. Maybe my son would be so engrossed in talking with his best friend that he wouldn't notice if anything was out of sorts on his bus. But the maybe kills me.
That said, this morning, my kid got on the bus.
Since the middle and high school students start earlier, the morning bus run is just elementary school. Once I realized that, I figured I could let go a little -- and hope that his own peers aren't cussing each other out or touching each other inappropriately or, omg, what have I done? -- and let him experience the joy of riding a bus. It's all he's wanted to do for over a year, and I'm glad to give him the opportunity to do so now.
I realize that parenting is a continuous process of letting go. I know I have to let go of his (cute! still kinda chubby!) little hand and let him have these experiences. I know, logically, that the bus ride is small beans compared to issues we'll face in the future. And yet, it's where we are now. I'm going through these thought processes, kind of out loud here, and someday I'll come up on the other side.
But as you might guess, I'll be picking him up at the end of his school day, snack in hand, to hear all about his day. I assume as I continue to let go of the reigns -- which I've done a pretty good job with over the past six years, coming at this parenting thing from a place of loss which lead to a slightly overprotective nature, ahem -- that he and his brother will eventually ride the bus home in the afternoon. I mean, they're going to learn those words at some point anyway, and if not from their peers -- older or same-aged -- then quite possibly from their father or grandfather(s). (What? Me? Never!) When we get there, I'll remind myself that when I was in 7th grade, I thought that oral sex meant french kissing -- because your tongues were in each others' mouths -- and pretend like all of the tweens and teens on their bus believe the same. Oh look, a unicorn!
So, let's have it: Would you let your elementary aged child ride the school bus with middle and high school students. If so, why? If not, why? Also, feel free to share your most horrifying bus moment. Unless it involves a crash, because dear Lord, I can't handle that.