Any metro rider has had this experience. A mom and her child board the bus, and the little one is restless and squirmy. He starts to babble loudly, and then begins to scream. Despite the mom’s best efforts, her child breaks into a full blown tantrum. The cries echo through the bus and thoroughly disrupt everyone on board. Passengers roll their eyes, and some even make comments to the parent about needing to gain control of the kid.
It can’t be easy bringing a small child onto the metro. Subways and buses are filled with chaos and potentially dangerous situations. Parents with small kids not only have to worry about carrying little Sally or Bobby, but often strollers and diaper bags. These items are definitely not easy to carry on the metro. If the parent has multiple children, the situation is made twice as stressful.
Last week, I was on the 16 heading home from downtown. A mom and her three young kids got on the bus at Vermont. It was towards the end of rush hour, so the bus was still relatively packed. She found two unoccupied seats next to each other. She sat her two smallest kids on a seat by the window, and she took the one next to them while squeezing the stroller and diaper bag between her legs. She instructed her son, the oldest, to take the last open seat. That seat was two rows and across the aisle from her, and directly in front of me.
The young boy, about five years old, turned around in his seat and gave me an adorable smile. The woman certainly had her hands full, so I was happy to interact with him for a few stops. I smiled back at the boy and said hello. He then got bolder, and grabbed my hands. Looking deep into my eyes, the child said, “I love you and you’re my best friend forever and you can never leave me!”
I smiled back at the kid and told him I was getting off in a couple more stops, but maybe I’d see him on the bus again someday. Then with deep intent, he licked one hand and then the next and put his hands again around mine.
“Now you can never leave!”
Well that was a little gross. I remained patient with the kid, because kids do gross things. It certainly wasn’t malicious, and I was pretty amused by this interaction. His mom saw her son do this, and rushed over to scoop him up. She apologized to me for him bothering me, and squeezed him into the seat with her, his sisters, and the rest of their cargo.
I honestly didn’t mind keeping her son distracted for those few short minutes. I can’t imagine the struggle it would be to then have to navigate the bus with three small children and all their items. If I was able to keep him entertained for a bit, it was probably making the hectic situation a little easier for the mom.
Over the weekend, I was on the bus heading to my gym in downtown. Shortly after I got on, I woman boarded with a baby that was probably about nine months old. The kid was at that age where she couldn’t walk, but was learning to stand and wanted to do so whenever possible. As the woman was boarding, she was balancing the squirming baby on her hip while digging for the TAP card in the diaper bag. Another passenger got up and offered to help the mom with the stroller. The woman set up the stroller for the mom in the handicapped seating, and secured it in a way where it wouldn’t roll around. The mom seemed so grateful for the woman’s help.
Throughout the ride, the baby kept resisting her mother as she tried to hold her in place. The kid just wanted to stand, but of course that wouldn’t be very safe for her. The same helpful woman would lean in on occasion to make a silly face at the baby. It helped make the little girl sit still, and she even began to smile and laugh.
The mom requested a stop a few miles down at Alvarado, and thanked the woman for all her help.
“Let me get the stroller for you,” the woman said to the mom. The woman followed the mom off the bus, pushing the stroller in front of her. She instructed the driver not to leave, and she’d be coming right back.
The helpful woman had a beaming smile on her face as she got back on. I commended her for being so helpful to that mom and her young daughter. She barely had to do anything extra on her part, but helping a mom with her cargo and interacting with the baby went miles for making the lives of that young family a little easier. Additionally, it seemed to brighten up the woman’s day by just helping someone else who needed a hand.
Parents have a difficult job, and they can’t always keep their kids in line. No parent wants their kid to be disruptive in public. A little compassion and kindness towards kids and their struggling parents while on the Metro can go a long way. Next time you get frustrated with a fussy child on the subway, just remember that the kid is just doing what kids do. Maybe even go the extra mile to help a parent as she’s exiting or boarding the bus. There are plenty of other rude solo Metro riders, so direct your hostility towards them. After all, those are the people who ought to know better!