Categories
Children Education

To my daughter: My childhood will not be your childhood.

Let me tell you, Dan and I have had a rough couple of months. We decided that we needed a day to reconnect and come up for air from all of the stresses of life as of late. I suggested that we have a day date — free from any distractions like the phone or the Xbox. After dropping PJ off to spend the day with her grandma, we wound up in my old hometown of Maumee. Since we were strapped for cash, a day at Sidecut Park was the most affordable choice. It was a nice way to disconnect from the rest of the world and unwind for a bit.

We walked along the riverside for a bit while taking in the fresh air and the wildlife. There weren’t many people around since it wasn’t exactly picnic weather. A few fishermen here and there, but the place was mostly deserted. This allowed us to see more deer and other animals in the area than usual. It was maybe 40 degrees outside but after all of the snow and slush, I was happy to take it.

Something happened that day that made me think.

Before we headed towards town for some more wandering (and some pizza), I went towards the river to skip some rocks. It was something I did during camping trips as a child, and it kept me occupied for a fair amount of time. Even that day, we spent about 30 minutes just throwing rocks into the river.

Then Dan confesses to me that he has never ever skipped rocks before. Like, ever.

I thought, where the heck was he when I was growing up? I’ve never heard of anyone who hasn’t done this already (in this area, anyway.)

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The Maumee River at Sidecut Park.

It was interesting trying to teach a 26-year-old the art of finding the perfect rock to throw along with the techniques I used to get the rock to glide across the river. I felt like this was something that he should have learned a long time ago as if it were a rite of passage in childhood that he had somehow missed. After that, I immediately began to think of PJ. Would she be able to have the same kinds of joyful memories that I had growing up?

Obviously, my childhood will not be her own. She will have different experiences growing up because the world that she was born in is already completely different from the one I was born into. Compared to today, there was a noticeable lack of technology in the house when I was younger. I played Mario Kart on the Gamecube quite a bit, but I also had a healthy amount of time to spend outside with friends in the neighborhood. My sister and I didn’t get our first cell phones until after middle school. And I’m sure even back then, as the internet began to blossom, people were starting to become concerned with the excessive amounts of exposure towards technology that kids were getting.

But would it ever get to the point where we will forget the times where kids were able to have fun and grow up without it? Would there be more instances where I would be trying to teach a young adult an old-school time killer from my youth like Duck, Duck, Goose?

I mean, seriously! The news lately also seems to reflect this thought — the toy industry is struggling lately. Even the industry giant Toys R’ Us has filed bankruptcy and will be forced to shut down their remaining retail locations soon as a result of the changing times.

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I wonder what will happen to Barbies and Legos in the future? Many toys today are already integrated with some kind of tech to keep up.

Look, I’m totally guilty of allowing PJ to watch Sesame Street on the TV while I try to hurry and get some work done. If I’m busy, I need something quick and easily available to entertain her while I take care of things. But I would hate to have her think the main form of entertainment only exists behind a screen or a tablet. This may make me seem like a horrible parent on the surface, but I want PJ to be bored. Bored out of her mind at times. I will leave her alone to play with her lifeless, boring looking toys and blocks for a while.

Now hear me out on this one.

Boredom is uncomfortable to deal with (even for adults!). However, it can foster innovation and creativity if we are allowed to simply explore the world around us. I believe the hyper-awareness of everyone’s actions on social media has made my generation the most paranoid group of parents to come yet, and this has made us constantly worried about others thoughts and judgments to our own child-rearing methods.

Of course, my child should be protected from any hazards I see around us, but I want her to learn how to create and build things. Maybe when she is older, we can try building a birdhouse together, or figure out how to grow veggies and other plants in our backyard.

PJ is not going to be able to experience everything that I did as a child, but I am going to make sure she is able to learn and play in this world as much as she can before she gets sucked into adulthood. I want her to make mud-pies and play with worms. I want her to be able to play in a sandbox and learn how it reacts to water and pressure to create sand castles. I want to teach her how to skip rocks across the water like a pro. I can’t wait to take her outside to play in the park, spend a day at the zoo, and even take her on a camping trip of our own.

Whether she is on a tablet or just existing IRL, the thing I want her to do most is to actively explore and learn about the world around her. Because it is going to be very different from mine. And hopefully one day, she can help me navigate the changes, too.

Categories
Education School

Be nice to your bus driver.

“Substitute bus driving is one of the hardest jobs ever, but it is so rewarding.”

Sure, the title of school bus driver isn’t exactly the sexiest one out there. When I was younger, I’ve always thought of the bus drivers who drove us around before and after school as cranky, embarrassing old people at best who maybe had hobbies besides driving the bus outside of school hours.

But after this experience I’ve had, I can understand why there is actually a school bus driver shortage as of late. I didn’t realize how much I had taken these guys for granted.

I remember when I finally got my 1992 Buick Century station wagon, complete with the wood panel trim and all – it was my ticket to freedom from the confines of the yellow tank filled with noisy students and limited legroom from all the equipment I was lugging around back in the day. I carried my 20-pound backpack and student violin case everywhere I went.

After getting my parking permits for the high school parking lot, I never really thought about school buses again until about 10 years later, when I found myself in a classroom at a facility where I almost finished my high school diploma. And that facility was Penta Career Center.

I ended up applying for a substitute bus driver position during my job hunt, and I was in the beginning stages of obtaining my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in the state of Ohio. I didn’t quite know what to expect, as I haven’t stepped foot in this neck of the woods for literally over a decade.

Instinctively, I sunk myself in the back row of the classroom as the instructor entered behind me.

“Oh no, this ain’t a church – you get to sit in the front seat!”

Wonderful.

 

 

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I’m still trying to remember what all of these extra buttons on the dash do… like opening the door. That one is important.

 

The first day wasn’t bad. I was in the room with a bunch of other rookies until the second day, where we had veteran drivers come in to get re-certified. Joe Dietrich was our instructor for the class, and he lovingly referred to the school bus he drove as “Big Yellow”. The veteran drivers filled the entire back row and ended up being about a third of the class. That was when things started to get a little real.

Joe asked, “How many of you guys have had a car pass you and blow your stop sign while you’re dropping off kids?”

Every veteran driver raised their hand.

Joe then showed us some pretty scary videos like a driver’s ed class should. But this time, after having a kid of my own and seeing some of these kids on buses die from cars that did not stop for school buses hit me hard. I was looking forward to putting PJ on a school bus to send her away for the day while I enjoyed the house to myself, but now I was terrified. What if my kid ended up in one of these accidents?

The general public AND the state of Ohio expects the school bus drivers to be perfect and nothing less. They are responsible for the safety of some precious cargo in a nearly 15-ton yellow metal tank that can cruise around at speeds up to 65 MPH on the interstate. That’s a huge responsibility these guys take on every day alone.

Not to mention that kids will be kids and do just what kids do. They are loud. They don’t pay attention to you. They do some pretty stupid stuff (like snorting Crystal Lite drink mix) and can be messy. Very messy. This job is not for the fainthearted. Or for those who value their privacy and space.

When you drive a school bus, you are basically a big yellow brick on the road. Anyone can and will watch what you do. Because you’re big and yellow and loud. You also have the school’s name conveniently right on the sides of your bus, so you are also a glorified Public Relations Manager for the school district you drive for. The parents will just think you are able to just work your magic and be little Johnny’s personal chauffeur… even though there may be 25 other kids on that bus.

I haven’t even started to drive one of these things yet, but just from taking this course, I’ve found a new appreciation for school bus drivers everywhere. You guys take a lot of crap to do a very important job.

So parents and guardians everywhere, be nice to your bus driver. Next time your kid gets on the bus, give them a note or a card to give to the driver that just says thank you for what they do for your child. You’ll have no idea how much that will make their day.

These drivers that are left in this line of work are not in it for the money – they are in it for the kids.

“Those are my kids.” one veteran driver said as we held our group discussions. “During the school year, you watch them grow up, lose teeth, get through some tough stuff. They grow on you.”

Even if I don’t make the cut to be a certified bus driver in Ohio, I’ll definitely take home these stories and experiences to bring awareness to other parents and friends of mine. At least I can be a bus driver’s favorite (or least irritating) parent from this experience someday.


 

**Special thanks to Joe Dietrich for giving me permission to write about my class experience! You can find out more about the Bus Driver Pre-Service Training Program he teaches here. Know a person who could be a great school bus driver? Click here for jobs in the Toledo area!**