We love the public transportation system in Vienna. Truly. It’s clean, it’s reliable, it’s inexpensive, and it’s nearly as fast as getting around by car (not that we have one). And, since we don’t have a car, it’s our primary mode of transportation.
But HAVING to commute by public transportation, every weekday, with both kids, can also be a challenge. I take the boys to school most mornings — a 40 minute trip during morning rush hour on an U-Bahn (subway) train and a city bus. And the major trick is that my boys are 3 and 5, AND there are other people who want to use the train to get where they’re going, too. (Imagine that!)
It’s really hard to have an audience for all of the difficult times that can happen in the morning. For those of you who take your kids to school or daycare by car, just think back to every morning car ride that’s hard — rides that feature screaming, throwing things, poking each other, looking at each other the wrong way or 1,000,000 times of asking the same question (at increasingly louder volumes). We have those, too, and we have a train car full of strangers as an audience. And, because our “audience” is primarily Austrian, so they are, by nature, some of the most shockingly quiet people on the planet. What an American considers normal conversational volume on a train is effectively shouting on an Austrian train, so the normal volume at which my children speak is almost always the loudest sound on the train. And that’s on a good day.
Most days are fine. On days when the train isn’t too crowded and we get our own space, things generally go well. If the boys each get a window seat, and I can sit next to whoever is the most fragile on that particular day, I can typically manage a head off any problems. But there’s no way to guarantee that. Even when things go “badly”, it’s usually ok. The boys like to sit by themselves in their seats, so usually a warning that bad behavior will result in having to sit in my lap is enough to save a potentially bad trip . . . but not always.
This morning was a tough one. In fact, it undoubtedly goes on the list of top 5 worst trips to school ever. We ended up in a crowded train car. B sat by the window, but Liam didn’t get to. I sat next to B, and across from Liam. Liam kept leaning on the woman sitting next to him. He wouldn’t stop, so I picked him up and held him, which resulted in him screaming, trying to wiggle out of my arms, and kicking me … a pretty normal 3 year old tantrum. It’s part of life as a parent. But to go through that while literally surrounded by other people is rough. In the course of his tantrum, he managed to kick 3 other passengers, hit me twice and have literally every eye in the train on us. I just held onto him and tried to restrain him and calm him down as best I could. He cried and screamed and flailed, but we really had no options. The train was quite full and we were lucky to have seats at all. We just had to get through it. As a last resort, Liam even asked if the guy sitting across from him (a complete stranger) could hold him instead. (Nice.)
By the time we got on the bus, all was well. The rest of our trip to school was fun and peaceful. But these are the mornings when I really wish we had a car, so I could strap them safely into their car seats and handle any screaming meltdowns in private.