This is the first year that we have decided that riding public transportation to school makes the most sense for our family. Our car needs to be replaced in a big way, and while we’re saving up to do so, riding the train seems a lot safer than driving the old clunker every day. Now that we have gotten a feel for the morning commute, it is highly unlikely that we would get to school any faster in a car than taking the train anyway (other commuters have told us the same)–even if we had a dependable vehicle. Plus, we had been wondering what we would do for exercise once school started, and committing to the mile and a half walk each day has at least given us a good starting place! So we have been taking our 3 youngest to school and back for a few weeks now and it has overall been a great experience. I decided to jot down a few things that we have learned from it, and was surprised to have come up with 25! Here they are, in no particular order:
- It’s easier to walk the 3/4 mile uphill to the train in the morning than it is to walk that same 3/4 mile back home in the afternoon, even though it is downhill.
- 3 kids and a two person stroller (one sitting, one standing on a platform designed for it) mean anywhere between 4 to 182 different stroller arrangements in that 3/4 mile walk, because it’s just no worth it to us as parents to fight to control who sits, stands, and walks when.
- Walking to the train isn’t just walking when you are 7, 5, and 3. It can mean sitting, hovering (standing on the little stroller platform), walking, running, skipping, playing tag, pretending that the stroller is a monster chasing you (that was this morning), and more.
- When your 3 yr old legs get too tired to walk anymore and you’re considering hopping into the stroller again, the possibility of running up and down a hill will breathe new life into those tired legs and bring out a gleeful “YAY!”
- 3 kids and a two person stroller offer us daily practice with conflict resolution
- Our stroller is great not just for tired children, but also to carry 4-5 bags on the handles, making the walk easier for everyone—except for the person pushing the stroller
- Pushing a stroller uphill with a couple of kids in it and 4-5 bags hanging on it is a decent workout. I would check my heart rate if we weren’t racing to catch a train on time.
- With its nifty cover, that stroller is a great place for our introverted 3 yr old to find a little space from the world on the way home when she needs it. It’s like her own little cocoon, and when she emerges she is so much happier! Sometimes she doesn’t need it.
- There are 4-5 different types of trains and our kids have their favorite type.
- When we miss a train, another will come.
- Sometimes there’s a problem (like an accident, or a derailed train, or a bridge lifted to let a ship through) and we can’t get to where we’re going when we thought we were going to, and that’s ok.
- Transit police give out BIG golden sticker badges that have a thin sticker strip on them that make for great mustaches. We know because a transit police officer told us. Also, they’re very nice people, even though we thought they were scary at first.
- Riding the train isn’t free.
- There are some really nice people on the train that are happy to see our family. For example, we made a friend who looks forward to the times we get to ride together at the same time. She has a kid in high school and takes the train every day to work.
- There aren’t a lot of young children that ride the train in the morning, but there are a lot of older kids and grown ups.
- The joy of kids is contagious. People smile when we play games like “I Spy”—especially when we laugh.
- I meet more people when I’m on the train with my children. People like talking with my children, which means I get to talk to them too.
- It’s more interesting getting to know the people you’re commuting with than riding the train without talking to anyone.
- Riding public transportation offers the opportunity to see more of the city, and views that you wouldn’t see any other way.
- It also offers the opportunity to be around people that you wouldn’t normally be around. It’s good to get out of our comfortable network of people sometimes and notice that other people live a different reality from our own. Older people, people in wheelchairs, a deaf person, people of all colors, business people, and homeless people, are some of the people we have talked to on the train.
- Sometimes older people are some of the friendliest people.
- It’s fun to wave and smile at people passing on trains to see how many of them will smile and wave back.
- A lot of train operators will wave and smile back, but one in particular is really silly and makes us laugh and laugh. The first time he made his arms and head go all crazy to wave back. And today, he did some dance moves back.
- Some train operators drive really jerky, while others are smooth like syrup, so sometimes it’s REALLY important to stay in your seat or hold on tight.
- The train ride home is a great time to eat the lunch that you didn’t have the time to eat at school.
The walks and the train rides have become a special time to connect as a family; we talk about all kinds of things, play games, and generally just enjoy each other’s company. Generally. There are of course those days when we leave school hangry, or tired, or just plain grumpy. Then the commute becomes this nerve-fraying thing that will just never end. But still, generally, it’s a bonding and fun connection time for us all.
Jeremy Martin-Weber is the proud father of 6 inspiring girls, and is 19 years into a love story with his partner, Jessica Martin-Weber.