Friday, April 17, 2009

Tales from the Bus: The Terrorist Toddler

Every time I see them on the #3 bus heading to Ann Arbor, I cringe.

I think I first saw them about 9 months ago - a young, attractive, hippy-ish mother (couldn't be more than 22 years old) and her equally pretty, but extremely hyperactive two year old daughter. The little girl was sprawled across her mother's lap, when she wasn't squirming or trying to run to the front of the bus. Despite her intermittent shrieks, another young woman (an enabler) cooed over the child. "She's so cute!" The young mother smiled. She was proud. She didn't scold her daughter for screaming, but cajoled her instead. At first, she tried a couple of gentle shushes, but that didn't work. Then came the awful song, in that shrill, crazy-making voice -

"The wheels of the bus go round and round,
round and round, round and round
The wheels of the bus go round and round, all day long!"

And then the verse with the "up and down", and the "up" part was so loud and fake-happy sounding. But it worked. The little girl actually sat still and stopped yelling. Singing that song was the one way the mother could placate her child.

But I felt like a hostage. That's why there are very strict rules on the bus. No radios. No loud phone conversations. No eating or drinking. Why? Because you can't get away from it.

My immediate impression was that the mom is more concerned with being cool than being in charge. She's not mature enough to know why the latter is as important as the former, so she isn't in control. The daughter is.

I've ridden with this pair several times since that first meeting. Every time I see them, mom sings "The Wheels of the Bus". Louder. More often. More deperately. It's painful to sit there - when everyone else is silently reading, or listening to their ipods, or just staring off into space - while this overwrought woman practically wails a nursery school song, so she can save her obnoxious daughter the embarrassment of being the loudest person on the bus.

Well, I'm guessing a fed-up driver must have banned "The Wheels of the Bus", because when I saw them on Thursday, mom didn't use that tack. And the little girl screamed all the way to Washtenaw Community College, where they were finally deposited. Mom begged her endlessly. Sometimes she pleaded, "Be quiet," as if she were asking a favor. Mostly she whined, "You need to lower your voice!" But of course, this toddler doesn't need to do anything she doesn't want to do. And for that reason, I give her a mean look whenever she passes by me.

When I was in my early twenties, I was totally the enabler that doted upon smiling tots no matter how rude or hyper they may have been. My parents were so strict about public manners and behavior that I suppose I found the lack of restraint refreshing. That's why most 22 year olds shouldn't have kids. Not enough perspective.

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