Many years ago I purchased an older 11 passenger van for the daycare.  It was a wonderful investment because we were now able to go places that we had never been able to visit before.  We went to see animals on farms; we hiked forest trails and explored wild wooded areas.  We went to museums and exhibits on the other side of town – places we couldn’t reach by foot.

Certainly we could have taken the transit bus to some of these places but that would have cut our ‘discovery’ time in half as we would have needed much more travel time.  We could have also chartered a school bus but that can be expensive and I can’t take the babies on the school bus so I have to take them in a separate vehicle and have an adult helper accompany the children on the bus.  The van was definitely a more convenient option.

There were issues with the van too though.  First of all, I wasn’t comfortable driving it.  I should point out that I don’t really like to drive at all.  I consider driving to be a very stressful experience and therefore I avoid driving when there are added ‘hazards’ – things like heavy traffic, unfamiliar territory and most of all – parking.  Add to all this that the van was a ‘beast’ and my driving discomfort was multiplied by the magnitude of the vehicle.  I know, if I drove more often then I’d overcome some of these fears – most of them are simply inexperience but I have a school bus driver for a husband — he likes to drive – and it is easy for me to rely on him to drive for me. The problem here was that we had to plan our outings around his work schedule and depending on his route, some days he was only available between 10:30am and 1:00pm.

Then there was the age of the van.  It was old when I bought it and we knew there were things that would eventually need work.  It had now gotten to the point where there was so much work to be done that I really had to wonder if it was worth the investment.  I mean, really, how can I teach the children to respect nature and protect the environment when we go exploring in an old gas guzzling, oil spewing vehicle?

So, I recycled the old van and purchased a smaller more eco-friendly van that only seats 8 and since I cannot transport children in the front seat I can really only take six children on an outing.  This is ok since during the school year when my husband is too busy to drive us the older children are also in school so I usually only have 4 or 5 children.  This means that as long as I can make it back for lunch a trip to library or a nearby attraction — places well within my driving comfort zones — can be planned more frequently.

I planned a visit to the Science Museum and Neon Lights Exhibit for last Friday.  According to the school calendars one of the schools was closed for parent/teacher conferences which meant I would have six children and no ‘must be home by noon’ or 11:30 Kindergarten pick-up schedule to worry about.  Then, two days before the planned outing I discover that there has been a change in the school calendar and the other school is also closed so now I have too many children to fit in the van!  The dilemma – do we cancel the trip or do we try the transit bus?  It is only a 10 minute trip – we could actually walk if the weather was good and the route was more pedestrian friendly.  We opted for the bus and what an experience that was – the children and I had a blast!

On the way there the bus was full so we had to stand.  A few passengers offered us seats but there still were not enough for all of us and there were absolutely no children who preferred to sit instead of standing.  By the end of our ride many of the passengers were near tears – from laughter – because the children had been cheering and squealing with delight throughout the excursion.  Yes, the van is still much easier but the bus was an experience that we will definitely have to try again.