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Public Transportation - Take the train with your kids

Updated on May 6, 2013

SD Trolley

Sunday Trolley Ride

A Sunday afternoon Trolley ride to Old Town San Diego is one of those benefits to living in sunny San Diego. Public transportation and children can be worrisome to parents, especially those of us not accustomed to it. So if you’re not from New York or Chicago, your kids don’t really have the experience with public transportation that comes natural to kids from these areas. There is so much you can teach your kids in that short period of time.

When someone titles an article with public transportation and kids safety, you probably are thinking that I’m talking about teaching them to read the maps, figuring out which train to take or how to pay the fares, right? Wrong. There is so much more to a day trip on the subway, trolley or bus aside from the logistics. The homeless person with a cart full of cans or the guy tattooed from head to toe who is apparently angry at the seat because he keeps yelling and hitting it. These situations are also teaching opportunities, aren’t they?

I have always looked forward to these situations, not in the sense of “yay”, but in the sense that it gives me another opportunity to talk to my children about something uncomfortable to some parents. Maybe when you’re talking to 10 or 12 years olds, the conversation is more of a one way one with no need to emphasize details, but when you’re talking to a 4 year old, the conversation can be a whole lot more challenging.

My four year old, inquisitive as he is, will undoubtedly follow any request with a “why”. I love “whys” (if you couldn’t already tell). On the trolley one day, my son was told to stop staring and face forward (by me). He did so and then looked and me and said….”why?” Why? Because I told you to! No, I didn’t really say that. I told him that the man he is staring at (the one who was yelling and hitting the seat) was probably having a bad day and like anyone having a bad day, sometimes you just want to be left alone. He looked at me and said “oh” and not more than 5 seconds later he said, “Well maybe he tripped and hurt his knee”. I think maybe you’re right shipmate. For you Navy folks out there, yes I do call my kids shipmates, but it’s an amorous phrase to me.

Obviously on the trolley and in ear shot of whomever you’re talking about is not the time/place to have the in depth conversation which our children. Exiting the trolley that day, one of my girls was running her mouth about the psycho on the train and my boy says, “he wasn’t psycho, he was having a bad day”. Look girls I said, I don’t want that kind of talk from you, do you know if that guy really was psycho? Do you know where he comes from, what his current situation is? “No, Dad”. Ok, then lets discuss why you believe it is appropriate to call him “psycho”. What do you think “psycho” means? “Someone who is crazy”, she says. So by “crazy” you mean someone who has a mental health condition? “Well, I guess, but you make it sound different!” Exactly, I do, don’t I?

As innocent and as uneventful as a train ride with the kids can be, there’s a teaching moment in there. It may end up as how to purchase the ticket, read the map or which trolley to get on. But it also may be one of those moments in life where it is imparitive for the parents to course correct their children. Not enough parents answer the “why”.

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