I’ve discovered an amazing type of time machine, right here in Wilton!
Science fiction fans should be thrilled. The machine is a matter-transmogrifier…something that can actually mutate and change matter, and make it age in a way. The most unbelievable thing? It’s our kids that get magically changed just from the sheer experience of stepping into the machine.
What is this out-of-this-world machine, you ask?
Why a run-of-the-mill school bus, for what other contraption can your baby step into as an innocent, naive child, and just hours later climb down those same steps with the vocabulary of a longshoreman and knowing things far beyond his years?
"Mom, what’s a b*tch?”
"Dad, did you know when you raise just your middle finger, you're saying the f-word to God?"
These are just the latest pearls of inquisitiveness we’ve shucked from the oyster bus this year. There’s been so much new language and loads of not-ready-for-prime-time educational experiences since he started riding the Cider Mill bus. But truth be told it’s just not limited to Cider Mill; each bus circuit at every school level surely has its own … transformative experiences.
I know people who opt out of the town-provided transportation out of fear. Fear of their kids being bullied, fear of their children hearing things developmentally damaging or "too advanced." But we’ve weathered the public transportation storm through all the choppy waters thus far. And as of now, we’re planning on putting another one in the hands of First Student Bus Company next year too.
We’ve emerged relatively unscathed—but I say that hesitatingly. Sure, there have been a couple verbal skirmishes, and once we had to request the videos be pulled so we could see if our son had been the target of a "physical interaction" during kindergarten (verdict: squeezed arm and a punch thrown). Thankfully there are cameras on the buses, but you need to hear from your kids that something is even happening to know to ask to see the tapes.
Human-nature being what it is, especially as kids get older, they may not always tell you when something is happening. And that’s a scary idea to contemplate, each time you put your child onto the bus.
I know the drivers are handling a lot of pressure—the minute-by-minute schedules to keep, winding Wilton roads to navigate, and often noisy passengers whose safety is in their hands. Then you toss in the responsibility of making sure each child emerges unscathed from bullying and peer pressure… I’d find being a Wilton school bus driver taxing, to say the least.
For a kid, a school bus ride is the petri dish of navigating the nuances of human interaction. You kind of have to see how he grows into his own stronger person, especially with the big kids along for the ride. The first day he heard them tossing around stronger language, he really was an innocent, completely offended by what he heard. He needed to figure out how to deal with kids who were trying to get a rise out of him, and how to deflect the attention away.
As a parent, you try to figure out how and when you teach your child to ignore what’s going on, or to figure out whether it’s really so bad. It opens up the opportunity and responsibility to teach lessons about the power of words and who holds that power—is it really the kids throwing the swear words around or is it him if he shows them it’s no big deal?
Sadly, these are lessons that sort of sneak up on you before you’re ready to learn them (as a kid) or teach them (as the adult). Someone else decided when he was going to hear those words for the first time, and that choice was taken out of our hands.
At the end of the day, he’s learning so much more than just salty language. And you hope that the longshoreman he’s becoming can bear the weight of carrying those heftier lessons around.