I used to yearn to be one of the kids who got to ride the big yellow school bus to school. Those kids . . . they were cool. Sitting in the green seats without seat belts as the bus bounced down the road. Those kids had it made. The rest of us only had the chance to ride the bus on special occasions, like school trips and, well, that’s really about it.
My family’s house was located 1.1 miles away from the elementary school I attended. To the school district, that 1.1 miles was easily walkable for 1st through 5th graders. It didn’t matter that there were no crossing guards to keep kids from getting hit by cars as they crossed the road. And it didn’t matter that there wasn’t a single sidewalk the entire walk from my parents’ house all the way to the school. The school district was not going to relegate a bus to pick up kids who only lived 1.1 miles from school.
Although I really wanted to be one of the kids who got to ride the bus, I also loved that I got to walk or ride my bike to school. If we walked to school it gave me 30 minutes to dink around with my friends before school and another 30 minutes to dink around with my friends after school. And no matter how much trouble I got in or how mad I made my mom, she couldn’t ground me from that hour of time spent with my friends, because the State of Utah mandated that I go to school.
Nothing bad ever happened on our way to school. Well, there was that one time when I wrecked on my bike and ended up having a few of the most embarrassing moments of my life occur shortly thereafter–and yes, that’s moments as in more than one. Nobody in my school was ever hit by a car on their way to and from school. Nobody was ever abducted on their way to school. We all arrived to school safely and we all arrived home safely.
Addie is now in the second grade and we live exactly 1 mile from her elementary school. There are sidewalks that line each street between our house and the elementary school. Some of those sidewalks are even located 15 feet away from the roadway. There are crossing guards to make sure that kids can cross the street safely when they need to cross the street. Despite all of these features that would help keep Addie safe, Addie rides the bus to and from school each day.
She’s already 2 years older than I was when I first started walking to school, and yet we haven’t allowed her to walk herself to school and I highly doubt we will ever let her. It just seems like there are too many crazies out there. Too many variables that are out of our control and we’d rather avoid the risk of anything bad happening all together. Sometimes when Addie’s playing in the circle in front of our yard or out waiting for the bus, I wonder what it would be like to get that phone call. The phone call from my wife explaining to me that Addie never made it to school. I wonder how awful and terrible that feeling would be. I think about how my mind would want to do everything in its power to go back in time to prevent whatever happened from happening, and then I force my mind stop. I can’t handle thinking about those questions.
I’m convinced that kids aren’t in anymore danger than they were when I grew up. Crazies have existed from the beginning of time. Kids back in the 80s could have been abducted just as easily as kids can be today. I don’t know if parents are more cautious today because the world actually is worse than it was when I grew up, or that there’s just more coverage of tragic events, but it ultimately doesn’t matter, because I’m not going to take the risk of finding out. I don’t ever want to be one of those parents who has to receive that terrible phone call.
Photo Credit: Flickr
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