Last year when my daughter started high school, we had to adjust to a new bus stop: instead of being located right outside my next door neighbor’s driveway, the high school stop is 1/4 mile away, at the top of our long, steep hill. No more waiting inside until the last second on a cold, blustery day–now, if she wants to make it in time for the bus, she has to leave the house at least 6 minutes ahead of the scheduled pickup window, lugging a huge backpack, laptop, and lunchbox for a power-climb to the top.
Yes, it is important to teach a teenager about the importance of responsibility, and I’m sure there are those who believe that forcing her to brave the elements and experience that heart-pounding dash every morning would help her “build character.”
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: sitting with her in the car for those few minutes at the bus stop, often bleary-eyed myself and in need more coffee, is the highlight of my day.
Teenagers can be notoriously difficult to communicate with, but each morning, waiting for that bus, I’ve got a captive audience. I keep my cell phone firmly in my pocket, and as we watch the sun rise in front of us, we take that time to talk about the day ahead. Those still-sleepy morning minutes are when she’s most likely to tell me about things that are weighing on her, and also the time she’s most receptive to encouragement and advice. Our bus stop bonding has brought us closer, and I treasure it.
Now that she’s a Sophomore, we’ve added a new element to the mix: two boys from our street who I’ve known since they were born, both in their Freshman year. As someone who has no sons, these mornings are now even more special for me. I love observing the differences between how these young men are first thing in the morning, as compared to what I’ve experienced raising teenage girls. Every once in a while–usually on a Friday, when the excitement of the weekend is building–I see a flash of the carefree little boys I remember, riding bikes and skinning knees. Then they hop out of the car and I am jolted back to reality when I see that both of them are now taller than I am.
The first time I showed up at the bus stop on a rainy day, and urged the boys to get in to stay dry, I could see the conflict in their eyes: struggling with their feelings of obligation to “tough it out” and deal with the downpour in stride, while wanting to take refuge from the elements. The deciding factor? Deference for a mother-figure, when I roll down the window in exasperation and say, “Oh for heaven’s sakes, get in, I’m cold looking at you!” Their respectful compliance speaks to the strong relationship each has with their own mother.
So, in addition to keeping up on things with my daughter, this new dynamic also has me doing a quick check on ESPN.com most mornings, lest I be unaware of the newsworthy football scores from the night before. The kids and I talk about everything and anything, from boring school assemblies and difficult exams they’re worried about to their favorite after-school clubs and the new movie coming out this weekend that everyone wants to see.
Once the school bus comes into view, I wish them all a good day, and they reluctantly trudge to the corner, but not before thanking me for the chance to “relax in a nice warm car” for awhile.
Believe me, kids–the pleasure is all mine.