“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go round and round. All day long.”
– Opening lyrics of the “Wheels on the Bus,” written about 1939 by Verna Hills
Sorry to give you an earworm out of this famously annoying children’s song, but if you raised kids over the last 20 years or more, you’ve had the words permanently embedded in your brain.
I will gladly spare you any more lyrics, but when it comes to writing about getting ready for my last non-college school year, I know of no other tune that more aptly sums up what parents are likely feeling as their child is about to enter senior year – with college, a job, the military or a gap year in your child’s immediate future – than “Wheels on the Bus.”
For so many, including this writer, from kindergarten on, going to school is tied to the bus.
Even the picture frames that hold our daughters’ yearly school photos that hang on the living room wall are in the shape of school buses. The 13 spaces (one for each year from kindergarten through grade 12) on my oldest daughter’s frame have been filled since the fall of 2013, when Arianna had her senior photo taken. The final space on my younger daughter Alana’s frame will be filled this fall, after we receive her senior photos, which she had taken last month.
The frames are appropriate symbols because the bus has played an integral role in educating our kids that their “job” was to be up early and be ready to board it. There was a simple explanation for that, we told them: Unless there was some sort of emergency, we wouldn’t be driving them to school because we had our own jobs, where we earned not grades but money to buy them more music, clothes and juice boxes.
Of course, until halfway through middle school that also meant that either my wife or I had to get up early to drive or walk our daughters to the bus stop at the end of our street. I worked an early-morning shift and was already at work when our first daughter was going to the bus. But I would wake up after working nights and just a few hours of sleep to take our younger daughter to the bus stop from the time she was in first grade until the sixth grade.
After that, she was “too old” to have her father (or grandfather, as she said most of her friends thought due to my gray beard and white-grayish hair) walk her to the bus. So she walked most days but gladly swallowed her pride and let her old man drive her in the winter.
During the first two years of high school, my wife usually wound up taking her to the bus stop. But it all changed a couple of months into her last school year when one of her friends with a driver’s license started taking her to school.
This spring, things really changed when the “wheels on the bus” evolved into “a set of wheels,” which she got after passing her driver’s test.
Now, as daunting as the prospect of seeing your youngest daughter – the person who it only seems like yesterday you used to push in a jogging stroller – driving herself, her parents discovered that it actually carried untold benefits since it meant that we no longer had to schlep her to and from soccer games and track practice, or arrange for carpooling to those activities.
Knowing that Alana will be driving herself to Tri-County Regional High School in Franklin, Massachusetts, and all of her related activities, including her co-op job, for a full year, makes this school year much easier to deal with than many others. Take, for instance, the third grade.
That was a low point in our school transportation saga. Every Thursday afternoon, we had to snatch her off the school bus and rush her to Hebrew School, 30-40 minutes away. That she never finished Hebrew School was due in no small part to the painful and impossible logistics that year.
And now you know why, if you’re the parent of a member of the Class of 2019, the “Wheels on the Bus” is actually a pretty appropriate earworm.
But if you’re really sore about getting reintroduced to that song, I’ll gladly apologize and remind you that it could have been much worse:
I could have reminded you about the long hours that your kids spent watching “Barney” – and you would have had nightmares about that positively ferocious purple dinosaur.
LARRY KESSLER is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.