In one week, my oldest child starts kindergarten. Shipping my 5-year-old diva/comedian/bestie off to full-day school has incited a range of emotions, but mostly I just feel excited . . . excited because I know she's going to love her amazing school, excited that I will get a break from the constant battles over screen time, sweets, and how many different shirts she's allowed to wear in one day, and excited to see my oldest reach such a major milestone with such relish. But there's one part of sending her to school that is leaving me feeling way more anxious than enthused: the school bus.
One one hand, it seems ridiculous that I would even consider putting a child who doesn't even know how to tie her own shoes on a vehicle driven by a stranger and populated with kids twice her age that will drop her off at a building she'll have to find her way through, without me to guide her.
On the other hand, considering she has to be at school at 7:45 a.m., her younger brother tends to sleep until 7:30, and the bus stop is directly in front of our house, it seems ridiculous not to use what I've now learned through many a Google search is considered the safest way to get kids to school.
My anxiety hit its peak two days ago, at the school's new parent orientation, where I found myself grilling my supersweet, incoming fifth grader tour guide about her own bus experiences ("really fun," "totally easy," and "not scary at all" . . . or so she says). I suddenly realized I had to put my own nervousness aside. After all, my daughter has been adamant about riding the bus since she first spotted one on our way to her preschool two years ago. She's not afraid of it in the slightest. And really, who wants to be out the door at 7:30 a.m.? So since the bus is happening for my kindergartner, I've found a few ways to ease the jitters for both of us (but let's be honest, mostly for me).
- Call to see if your school offers a practice bus ride, or make your own. Unfortunately, our school no longer offers this service, but many districts still provide a practice ride, which picks up first-time riders and their parents at their designated bus stop, drops them off at school, then reloads to do the whole thing in reverse. Call your school to see if you can sign up for a test run, but if your school doesn't offer a practice ride, consider making your own. Have one parent wait with your child at the bus stop. The other can pick him or her up in your car, then park where the buses will stop (call the school if you're not sure), and walk your child in to her classroom or the school line-up location.
- Find a bus buddy. We're lucky to have quite a few young elementary students on our street, and by asking around, I found another kindergartner (with two older elementary student siblings) who will catch the bus at our same stop. Having a buddy can ease the anxiety for kids and Mom.
- Follow that bus! My biggest fear about my daughter riding the bus is that she won't know where to go once she gets off (I'm sure the school has tons of staff directing the kids, but this one is still keeping me up at night). A few mom friends suggested to me that I follow Mae's bus on the first day, meeting her on the other side so we can both feel better about the transition from bus to school building.
- Communicate with your kid. Admittedly, even after all my Googling, I still have limited knowledge about today's buses (do they still not have seat belts? will a bully put gum in her hair like that one jerk did to me in seventh grade?), but I've tried to be open with my daughter about some of my concerns and questions while also trying not to scare her or dampen her bus enthusiasm. Talk to your kids about dealing with older kids, listening to the bus driver, and asking for help from grown-ups they trust. After that, we all just have to give them hugs, cross our fingers, and let them ride!