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We are two working mothers — Lauren Rose, the director of business development for Name Bubbles, and Betsy DeMars, the assistant managing editor at The Saratogian. Try as we may to be really good at both, balancing motherhood and career can get pretty messy. As professionals, work schedules and mommy schedules often collide. So, we plow through, hoping at the end of the day, our kids — Lauren's 5-year-old son and Betsy's 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter — know how much we love them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How old is old enough?

Question: At what age is it OK to let my children get on the school bus by themselves?

My son is 10 1/2, and my daughter is almost 8, and though we live on kind of a rural yet busy road (speed limit supposedly 35 mph), it doesn't seem that dangerous for them to wait at the end of the driveway unsupervised for a few minutes.

Our driveway isn't that long, but we're set back enough that we can't see the bus coming from the previous stop a couple houses down. The bus comes at the same time every day, though, and we never go out more than 5 minutes ahead of time.

As part of their chores, the two of them take the garbage and recycling bins down to the road, and I definitely think they are old enough to be doing that. So what would be the big deal be for them to catch the bus in the morning without me standing there with them?

After they are both ready with lunches made and bags packed, I like to jump in the shower so I can get to work. Sometimes that's just a few minutes before the bus is set to arrive, and I'm left hurriedly getting dressed to run out the door with them with my sopping, wet hair. No one driving by or on the bus really needs to see that.

It just occured to me the other day that with my son in fourth grade, it probably isn't necessary to supervise this anymore. I'm not really sure what other parents do. I can only see one other stop from our house, and their mother is always out there. Their children are of a similar age, so that makes me think I'm supposed to be there, too.

The school district's Web site has a "frequently asked questions" list under the transportation department's heading, but the subject is not really addressed. However it does answer the question, "What is the transportation policy regarding children let off at the bus stop without a parent or guardian present?" It says, "Student grades 1-12 can be let off the bus at their stop without a parent/guardian present. Kindergarten students will not be let off the bus unless a parent/guardian, daycare provider or an older sibling is at the stop to meet them."
If children a re allowed to to get off the bus without a parent there to meet them, surely getting on is OK.

I just had this conversation with a few other adults in which people were weighing in on what they were allowed to do as kids, compared to what youngsters of the same age are or aren't allowed to do today. "We lived in Albany, and my mom would send us to the store several blocks away," one woman said. Others rode their bikes or walked to school a mile or two.

I know it's a different world than when I was growing up and we were allowed to roam all over the neighborhood. But we want to foster independence in our children, and we certainly don't want to breed fear.

It's not as if waiting for the bus with them makes me that much later for work, but giving them a little more freedom and responsibility doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Let me know your thoughts on this.



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