Bemused or Benewsed


Now and then, I’m bemused by a story in the news.

Or maybe that’s benewsed.

(Thousands of eyes roll across the nation)

Like the story, featured in North Shore news — and across the nation — about the guy who trained his kids to take the bus to their North Van school – on their own.  Adrian Crook says he rode with his 7, 8, 9 and 11-year-olds for a year before allowing them to make a solo passage from Yaletown to the North Shore and back.


It was all working fine until the Ministry of Children and Family Development told him no child under 10 could be allowed to take the bus without supervision.  Not just the bus, but “in the community, at home or on transit.”

So he’s back on the bus with the kids, and I’m staring at my screen in a state of benewsment. I hardly know where to start.

I probably shouldn’t start with, “When I was a kid …” but this is an historic moment and I’m nothing if not historic.

When I was a kid, I’d spend entire days unsupervised. In fact, the very idea of supervising a 7, 8, or 9 year old as he went about his daily meanderings would have seemed bizarre to my parents. I was set loose in the morning and summoned for dinner with a loud bellow that carried for miles in the evening. I was a free range kid, as were all the other kids in the neighbourhood.


When I was 10, I had a paper route with more than 80 papers, which I delivered solo. The remarkable thing is that none of it seemed remarkable.

As for the bus, I took the rough-around-the-edges North Main Templeton from Winnipeg’s North End to the movies downtown and back as soon as I was tall enough to put the coin in the fare box. Along with all the other free range kids.

Somehow we’ve evolved (?) into this freaked-out bunch of nervous nellies who are afraid to let the kids out of our sight for a minute. This time, the guardians of the galaxy have picked on a dad who doubles as a blogger, and he’s brought an articulate eloquence to the whole sinister situation. It may not be good his family’s “freedom of mobility”, but you don’t need Google Analytics to figure that it has put his blog  ( the map. If his response to this outrage is any


indication, his voice deserves to be heard.

“All it took was one report from a stranger to shrink our world beyond everyone else’s,” he wrote in his blog. And while he meant his immediate family’s world, his words serve as a warning to us all.

We’re in danger of losing something vastly more precious than security, not to mention what this means to transit as a real alternative to the auto. (More on that in a bit.) Personal freedom is rapidly becoming extinct, and it’s as if we can’t get rid of it fast enough. It’s dirty; it smells and it’s dangerous.

It’s not as if it was all moonbeams and unicorns when I was a kid. Every day brought its challenges. I got lost, beat up, fell off my bike, and was bit by more than one (unleashed) dog. At one point, as I was delivering those above-mentioned papers, I was the victim of a drive-by shooting; fortunately the perp was using a pellet gun. Just a flesh wound. That would lead the 6 p.m. news these days.

Back then? Band-Aid.


I was hardly the bravest kid. Tears frequently had to be dried, nose frequently wiped. But any incursion into my personal freedom made me fight like an underage honey bear. I loved that sweet anticipation of a day without an agenda and especially without adult supervision. Is there a kid alive today who ever knows a day like that?

Meanwhile, more than one person has noticed what this story means to transit as the preferred option for getting around. How are we going to get families out of the SUV and onto the bus if it’s not seen as a safe place?

Unless Translink is prepared to put security guards on every bus, parents will be required to ride with the kids. As if any of that’s going to happen. Who has the time? So it’s everyone into the car, even though cars are demonstrably, statistically, more dangerous than buses.

So, nanny state, as Roger Waters would say:  leave them kids alone.

Paul Sullivan is an award winning journalist and communications strategist in Vancouver , British Columbia.

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