Tween milestones – taking the local transit, part 1

(I asked my son for permission to write about this topic and he said it was ok.)

* * *

As a new mom, when the first baby arrives, we anticipate and log and share and take pictures of every tiny little milestone they accomplish, and it’s the most exciting thing ever. Right? Then a second, third or more baby is born and you’re too tired to care whether she took a step earlier or later than her brother. You still notice the milestones, of course, they just don’t get quite the same attention anymore.

My oldest is 11 and I once again feel like the parent I was when he was an infant/toddler/preschooler. There are so many things going on with him, it’s almost impossible not to notice how much he’s grown and learned over the last couple of years.

And now, we are standing on the threshold of a new type of independence. My baby has grown up and he’s about to leave me. On a streetcar, and only until the end of the school day, but still. It feels like a big step, and me being me, I wanted to prepare him adequately for this new method of independent travel.

* * *

Up until and including grade 3 my oldest went to the local school, five blocks away from our house. Since the day he started Junior Kindergarten, we were able to walk to and from school every single day. His younger sister used to be pushed in the stroller, or pulled in a wagon, or walked/skipped/jumped/ran along with us, barely able to wait until it was her turn to go to school.

With grade 4, my son switched schools to go into the extended French Immersion program. He still had to walk to his old school every day, but a school bus picked him up there and took him to the French school. Many of his friends did the same thing.

The first milestone of the double digit ages (so going on 10, and beyond) happened with this move to grade 4 at a new school. He was now going to be walking himself to school to catch the bus on his own.

That was a big step (for me, too).

The school board arrangement is that the kids will get a schoolbus for grades 4 and 5. As of grade 6 however, the schoolbus is no longer available. For many kids, this means they must now depend on local transportation.

For us, local transportation is one of several options. I grew up with transit, we didn’t have a car until I was a teenager. Nothing wrong with teaching kids how to take transit.

We live in a big, metropolitan city. Our little neighbourhood feels like a small town, and most of us who live here and raise our families here are fiercely protective of this little gem we call home. Just up the street is a busy main road, which is serviced by streetcars and buses.

Next September, my 6th grader will be taking the streetcar to school. And I’m going to teach him how to do this on his own. (Well, he probably won’t be on his own most of the time, as half the school takes the streetcar, and most tweenies appear to do almost everything in packs…but theoretically, he’ll be ‘on his own’.)

I’ve introduced this topic to my boy a long time ago, revisiting it every time we take the transit system as a family. When we went to the museum we took the subway, and we talked about it then, for example. Both kids are familiar with trains and transit systems, a perk of living in a city often congested with traffic. Plus, when you’re small, taking transit is fun!

Point is, we are getting more comfortable with the idea of releasing our child out into the world on his own. And by we I mean me,  and by world I mean transit to school and back.

It feels like a major milestone.

For months, we talked about doing a ‘dry run’ on the streetcar during summer vacation. Until last week, when I realized, summer vacation may not be the best time to practice this. There are two reasons:

First, I wanted to know just what kind of characters will be on the streetcar at the same time as my kid. Consciously I know it’ll be mostly primary and secondary students, along with some college kids who would travel a bit farther east to their campus, and maybe a few local workers, shop keepers and some seniors. Still, I think it would make me feel better to know just what his exposure will be like.

And second, I wanted to be present while he practiced so I can answer questions. I’m not sure how much longer he will look to me for answers. Right now he’s still very comfortable to look to me for guidance, so I may as well lend a hand there. The streetcar system is not complicated, but doing it on your own can be a little overwhelming when you don’t have much experience. His childhood is so different from mine, he spends a lot of time in cars commuting to hockey rinks. This is not something I was familiar with when I was growing up. I was familiar with trains, and buses, not cars and hockey rinks. 🙂

With all this in mind, I decided the time has come to put this adventure into practice.

Last week, I declared that this is the week we pick a day to take the streetcar to school. I arranged for my younger one to be dropped off at her school by her dad who had to get into work later anyway, and proceeded to check online for times, and routes for the streetcar.

Another double digit milestone is in the making. 🙂

Stay tuned for part 2.



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