I must admit that part of me wants to jump right into the fun part of this piece to create the illusion that my days with my children are all fun and laughter and happy photos (in large part because the “perfect mother” in me has yet to concede that this is a totally unrealistic ideal). However, the truth is that many of our dates, like riding the bus, came about as a means of simply surviving the often long, and sometimes lonely, days as an at-home parent of two young children.
Living on the rural edge of suburbia in South County means that just about everything we want to do is at least a twenty- to thirty-minute drive, so we tend to spend much more time in our car than is comfortable for our family and–as gas prices continue to climb–more than is comfortable for our family’s budget.
On a particularly challenging Tuesday several months ago, when cabin fever was hitting a peak in our house, I decided to check out an alternative form of transportation–the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) buses–to see if we could find a route that would be of interest.
Within a couple of minutes I found a bus that we could pick up about five miles from our house and would take to a nearby shopping mall for lunch and window shopping (a perfect three-hour round trip that got us home just in time for my toddler’s nap).
I told the kids about the plan, which was a big hit, and we were off!
I remember feeling a surge of energy as we parked our car and scurried to the bus stop–and I am happy to report that our first ride did not disappoint!
The route was one we drive several times a week, but the new perspective was good medicine for a tired mama. Just watching my children take in the different view was enough to thaw my winter blues.
“We’re as high as the trees, Mama!”
“Look, Mama, there is the farm we’ve been to. It looks so neat from way up here.”
“Look Mama, there’s the library.”
“Mama, look! I see our church!”
“This is SO amazing, Mama!”
And on it went. The Co-op, the ice-cream shop, the bike path, the turn to our friends’ house — every site was announced with great joy.
Although traveling with two young children was not quite as relaxing as my pre-kid days when I commuted to Providence via RIPTA, it was a real treat for me to get to be a passenger for a change.
Since that first late-winter ride, we have taken busses to Providence and Newport and ridden our “regular route” at least once every couple of weeks. And we’ve found that summer is an equally wonderful time to ride the (air-conditioned) buses — especially on air quality alert days when RIPTA buses are free. (Normal fares are $1.75 per person and children under five ride free.)
I feel great about having a break from chaueffer duty and also about teaching my children at an early age to enjoy the many benefits of public transportation.
I love the brightness in my children’s faces as we greet fellow passengers and marvel at the scenery together, and I appreciate the kind words of strangers who gently remind me to savor these precious times when the days may be long but the years truly are short!
Next time: Dining in for Date Night
Erin Barrette Goodman is a freelance writer, yoga teacher, and mother of two. She is the founder of the Rhode Island Birth Network, which promotes empowered decision-making during the childbearing years.
Photo Credit: Erin Barrette Goodman