This I Believe

Michael - Syracuse, New York
Entered on September 25, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: parenthood
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This I Believe: Parents Matter

“I’m the only senior riding the bus” our daughter lamented after the first day of school; her voice revealing profound embarrassment … “riding the bus is so uncool.” I remain troubled by her sense of humiliation, but believe that riding the bus is the best decision for three reasons.

First, that big yellow box is the safest vehicle on the road. The bus driver has years of driving experience, special training, and maturity on her side. The alternative – driving with a teenage friend – is decidedly less safe. Teen drivers have less driving experience and are more distractable, and most are sleep-deprived. Public health experts tell us that “driving while drowsy” is no better than “driving while drunk.”

Second, the bus provides public transportation, which means fewer cars on the road, less use of fuel, and less pollution. It means that we won’t have to pave the athletic fields to create parking spaces for all those extra cars.

Third, the bus represents financial reality. After all, what 17 year old can afford to pay for fuel, insurance, and maintenance, not to mention the cost of the car itself? If we give a teenager access to a car just for convenience, what message does this send about earning your own way? What does it say about “living within your means”?

Perhaps some of you are thinking, “Taking the car saves them 10 minutes, or helps them to develop their driving skills.” But, I’m skeptical. I suspect that the real reason is because we want to spare our kids the embarrassment of being different. So that they can fit in, we risk the environment, our economic self-interest, and even our children’s safety.

We parents need to search our souls, think mature thoughts, and build networks of like-minded parents. Collectively, let’s fight the negative influences and pressures that bombard our kids on TV, radio, and the internet, as well as in the malls and on the streets. Our kids need to know that we are looking out for them; they need to know why it is better to wait before having sex, why education is important, why we should treat others with respect and, yes, even why they should ride the bus. If parents cave in to convenience or peer pressure or popular culture, why should our kids cope differently when they face such challenges?

This I believe: What we decide as parents … matters.