Dear Bus Dad

‘What the fuck is he doing that for?’

This is directed at a boy in a pushchair. He’s probably not yet reached his first birthday and he’s thrown his toy on the floor. Again, according to Mr ‘what the fuck is he doing that for’ who I guess is his dad. Dad decides he’s had enough. He picks up the toy and holds it in his lap, firmly out of reach of our young boy who makes several desperate attempts to signal for it’s return including squirming, squealing and eventually full blown screaming. My guess is that he’s screaming because he doesn’t yet have words for what he wants to say which is broadly,

‘What the fuck is he doing that for?’

I have a few ideas I could share. I’m in a good position – front row witness – the boy could likely kick me too in a minute – but I hesitate. In this day and age who welcomes advice from strangers, especially advice that they haven’t asked for? I imagine bus Dad turning to me in disbelief at my forwardness, asking the obvious question,

‘Are you my mum though?’

Not your mum, no. So I don’t say anything and neither do any of the other passengers and we avert our eyes and listen to screaming and teeth-kissing until boy and dad disembark and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief.

It troubles me though, then and later. Up until now in fact. Because I’m not his mum? Really? Shame on me. What if his mum was busy? What if she wasn’t around? What if he didn’t have a mum or he did and she was just plain ‘wotless’? What if I’m not your mum but you could really do with a temporary stand in?

Am I your mum though is the person who couldn’t be there on that bus. She’s the opinionated, big mouth who doesn’t care who you think she is or isn’t or whether or not you want to hear what she has to say. In no way shape or form does she need your permission to speak. Ever.

Dear Bus Dad

Your son is a baby in the process of growing up. My guess is that he’s developing object permanency. He doesn’t yet understand that things that are out of sight still exist somewhere. Object permanence is a lesson we all need to get under our belts in order to live productively. Without it, we would forget everything we couldn’t see. You would put your iphone in your pocket and it would literally be out of sight, out of mind and off of the planet. For children, who are totally dependent on things (people) sticking around to feed and soothe and generally look after them, this would be terrifying, which is why it’s so important for them to learn that a person who leaves the room doesn’t actually disappear. Like the rest of us, babies don’t learn by being told something once but rather by experience and experimentation. They’ve discovered a great way of doing this;

They throw things out of their prams / cots / high chairs.

Then they wait for them to come back.

And so when the toy that your son throws out of his buggy is returned (again and again) it helps him to know (eventually) that you too, his all important loving dad, will always be there too.

My advice? Do your job and keep picking it up. Smile if you can, and mind your language

One Love


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