12 November 2008

My Kid Takes the City Bus to School

I grew up in suburbia. In a small town north of Toronto. It wasn't until Grade 9, when I was 14 or so, that a yellow school bus was no longer provided. Well to be truthful, I lived 3 blocks from my grade school and had to walk, but that's not the point.

According to the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, when you are in grade 7 and live less than 3.0 kms from the school, transportation will no longer be provided for you. That means that this past September our daughter needed to take OC Transpo back and forth from school every day.

Now remember, this is a child who has memory challenges, regularly gets seriously disoriented in our own neighbourhood and loves to talk to strangers. The first two, we were pretty confident that we could develop strategies for. It was the "talking to strangers" that had us concerned.

This is the same child that locked herself out of the house last summer and instead of waiting for us to return in a short time, knocked on a complete stranger's door and went into his house. The only reason we knew she was there because when we were walking up the street we saw her backpack on his stoop.

On the transportation front, I can appreciate that we live in a city, and that mass transit is somewhat of a luxury. This is in the sense that my kid won't have to walk 2.7 kms to school each day and we're saving some tax dollars by not having a yellow school bus.

But, we DO live in a city and we don't exactly live in the nicest part of the city. We live in Overbook on the cusp of Vanier and she now goes to York Street Public School.

The very things we try to protect our children from, like dirty needles on front lawns and prostitution, were addressed the very first city transit trial run we took with her before school. I'm not so worried about her exposure to such issues, I just don't trust her judgment not to pick up a used needle up to throw out or to ask someone directly what they're doing standing on a street corner. No amount of street proofing has been effective with her. Social cues and street smarts just aren't her strength.

We've done what we can do, not without a hefty dose of questioning and parental guilt, but we've done that best that we can and we have to let her go, learn and make her own mistakes.

When Bella came to show me the photos on her camera, she got to a series of images of people sitting on the bus. I asked who her friends were. "I dunno. They're not my friends," she said. When I probed further, I discovered she knew nothing about these people. They were just random people on the bus.

I then proceeded to warn her about taking photos of strangers without permission and how that could get her into big trouble. She quickly cut me off.

In the belitting matter-of-fact voice that 13-year-olds use with an annoying frequency, she let me know that she wasn't stupid enough to take a photo without permission. In fact, very smartly and smugly, she let me know that she had asked for permission.

To which I replied, "Isn't one of the first rules of taking the bus that you don't talk to anyone, especially strangers?"

It only then dawned on her. She had taken random photos of... g-a-s-p ...strangers! And just because she talked to them to take their photo didn't make them any less strange!

Sometimes I just want to hit my head against a brick wall.

On the other hand, I can just picture the scene unfolding on the bus of some little kid asking randoms to take their photo. I mean, what would you say to that? How bizarre!

My kid behaves on the bus like one of the people we warn her about.


Ottawa Gardener said...

Sigh. I hesitate to remember the things I did as a kid. Life is a tough lesson to learn. I am sending good traveling thoughts to Bella and her photographs of strangers (P.S. I have an entire album that I created at 12 of strange children back in the days before such things would be looked at askew.)

hw said...

Ha! That's so wonderful. Those are great childhood memory. Now, wouldn't it be funny if you were to run into one of them again?