My one-minute commute to the office was doubled today due to a traffic issue in the neighborhood. I had to stop and wait for the school bus to load. Rainy weather meant that my stopping point was several cars behind the bus. . . cars that had been sitting at the bus stop. . . cars that had been occupied by kids trying to stay dry and parents trying to keep kids who wanted to stay dry. . . dry.
My mind wandered back a few years to rainy days in my childhood neighborhood. At the risk of sounding like an old-fashioned guy, it was different back then. I don’t ever remember getting a ride in the car to the bus stop, including on rainy days. In fact, I don’t remember any of the multitude of kids who gathered every morning at the corner of Beverly and Crosswicks ever getting a dry ride to the stop or an equally dry four-wheeled “waiting room” whenever the skies had opened. Anyone who did would have been labeled a “sissy,” or some other negative term. So great was our drive for independence and self-sufficiency that I would have begged my mother NOT to drive me to the bus stop if she had offered. Okay. . . so peer pressure played into it a little bit as well.
We stayed dry by getting covered in vinyl and rubber. Bright yellow vinyl rain coats with hoods or Nor’easter caps not only kept us dry, but extremely hot. They didn’t breath. They kept the rain out and the body humidity in. Our feet were protected with “rubbers,” a kind of stretchable shoe covering that kept those school shoes dry and shiny. My grandmother called them “galoshes.” Strange.
By the time Junior High rolled around, getting a ride to the bus stop was still totally uncool. In addition, wearing rubbers was equally or even more uncool. . . a fact that my mother never grasped. Consequently, I would take a quick break halfway up the street on my short trip to the bus stop. I would remove the rubbers and proceed to hide them in a coat pocket. . .which I would then do in reverse if it was still raining on my trip home later in the day. Back then, I even remember raincoats being frowned upon. The best option was either an umbrella, or just getting wet. I guess we were tough.
This simple little observation of how the times have changed might be part of a bigger cultural shift. And that bigger cultural shift might not be a good one. Our kids are living in a world where entitlement, materialism, and narcissism rule. Parents over-parent and over-protect their kids, raising expectations that will last throughout their lives. At the forefront of those expectations is the sense that I inhabit the center of the universe, and the rest of the universe and its inhabitants are there to serve me.
Is it wrong to drive our kids to the bus stop? No. Is it wrong to want to keep them warm and dry? Absolutely not. But might it be good to let them learn how to endure the elements. . . both the elements that come at us through weather, and the elements of a life that doesn’t always go the way we want it to?