Train Mommy

at 10:43 PM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

In world that seems increasingly defined as ‘me, me, me’, its good to know that others want to take care of others, especially vulnerable others. Holly Kreider has this Perspective.

My younger daughter Carmen has learning challenges, and for the past six years, she's attended an independent school for children with learning disabilities several towns away. My daily life often involved three hours of driving and complicated three-way carpools.

When Carmen started seventh grade we took a giant leap of faith. She started commuting on her own to school – taking a Caltrain express train and a long walk alone to school. She had her cell phone and a few practice runs with her big sister. I knew it might go sideways, but eventually we had to give it a try.

We did have some unexpected outcomes that year, but not in a bad way. Carmen made friends on the train, including a mom who worked at Stanford. I never met this woman, but I eventually came to call her Carmen's “Train Mommy.” Train Mommy suggested to Carmen that she take the Stanford shuttle from the train stop to school for a quicker trip and offered to show her how. When Carmen told me about this offer, I was hesitant. It would mean another layer of complicated directions and strangers to navigate.

Then one day Carmen came home and said “Mommy, don't be mad, but it was raining so we took the shuttle together.” Carmen proceeded to pull from her backpack a Stanford shuttle map, a shuttle schedule with her route highlighted in yellow, and a sheet of paper with the names of five commuters and their cell phone numbers. Train Mommy and her friends said to Carmen, “If you ever get lost, you just find someone like us with a Stanford Hospital name badge to help you.”


And so it goes. Carmen is now an expert Caltrain commuter. She teaches other children how to use the train, and this fall she's headed to a high school even farther down the Caltrain line. For a girl who still struggles to tell time and count money, this transportational independence is huge. And we owe much of it to the kindness of strangers on a train.

With a Perspective, I’m Holly Kreider.

Holy Kreider is a single, working mother in Sunnyvale with two school-age daughters.