My kids lead a sheltered life. Shoot, who am I kidding – I’ve led a sheltered life. There are hardships and then there are hardships, and I’ve got a good handle on where I fall on the spectrum. BrightSide and I don’t want to raise precious snowflakes. We want to expose our kids to the world and keep them grounded, but I don’t quite think it’s gone according to plan.
BrightSide’s company provides incredible travel opportunities. We’re blessed to go across the country or around the globe, to experience different cultures, to sample new cuisine, and to explore a planet where there are a thousand ways to live a beautiful life. I’d never give it up, but we know this travel doesn’t immerse T-man and Bear in a daily reality for these cultures.
Which is what made San Francisco so bracing for Bear.
The city was a healthy mix of people, though probably a bit heavy on the tourist side considering the areas we explored with the kids. But there’s a common denominator that brings mass humanity into close contact in any big city, and that’s a little something called mass transit.
In July we explored San Francisco using transit passes, and it was a significant part of the adventure. The cable cars were interesting (and super crowded) plus, you know, historical and such. But it was city buses that caused a collision between jaunty tourist and real world San Francisco.
My aha moment was stepping off the bus into Chinatown. I’d never experienced such juxtaposed environments – one moment we’re in the back of a bus, talking to each other about what we wanted to see that afternoon; the next I’m stepping onto the curb with wall to wall people, a foreign language raining around me, and foods I’ve never seen being sold in the windows. It was a bit overwhelming, to be honest.
But I digress. This post is about Bear’s aha moment.
It was the first city bus we’d be boarding that week. We were hustling to catch it so we’d make the next connection, and as we rushed up the sidewalk the kids heard a disheveled man hurtle a furious “Bitch!” at the woman nearby. They both shot to my side like magnets, anxious about the angry man who shouted at anyone and everyone passing by.
Things got more complicated when the man boarded our bus. Bear turned to me with distressed eyes. She did not want to get on that bus, no way no how, but you know how those schedules work. So I hustled her on board with reassurances that I would shield her from view and her dad would never let anything bad happen. Yes, a small white lie considering I know how unpredictable people can be, but what else can you do when your eleven year old is terrified of a bus?
Unfortunately, not everyone was aware of our situation. Things worked out so that the agitated man sat across the aisle and one row back from us. I put Bear in the window seat with me in the aisle; Turner was directly behind her, and BrightSide was across the way, sitting directly in front of the man. Bear worried for Turner but was most concerned about BrightSide – she absolutely did not like that he was sitting near a man who kept raging at the world. She has the protective instincts of a mini-mama. She never stopped watching that man’s every move.
It was a relief when we finally got off the bus, but that didn’t mean Bear was past it. Not by a long shot. She was agitated, anxious, sick to her stomach. The encounter deeply affected her, and it was a while before we could even calmly discuss it.
We eventually talked about the hard fact that not everyone has a family to help them take care of themselves. That they might not have a safe place to stay during the day or sleep at night. That often people with mental illnesses find themselves on the street, and spending time on the bus routes is one way to pass the time.
It was a sharp run in with big city life for our country mouse girl, and Bear handled it with as much grace as anyone could expect.