Friday, January 8, 2010

Crosstown Traffic...

Do you know how when you learn a new word and then you end up seeing it everywhere? Like, you look up the definition of “doppelganger” because you see it in a book and then you read it in the New York Times later and hear it on a television show the next day. Then you wonder how you lived your whole life without noticing “doppelganger”?

Well, when you become a parent, you start to notice things you didn’t before. Sometimes it is small, like you never noticed how large the parenting self-help section is in a book store, or how many kids seem to be allowed to wear ridiculous clothes, like Halloween costumes in July, because parents have just given up trying to dress them. Usually, it has something to do with parent and/or child behavior.

Lately, for me, it has been parents at bus stops. There is a school at the end of my street and I pass a couple bus stops on my way to work. I’ve been passing them for a few years and never really taken a second look. The thing that I’m starting to notice now though is that the ratio of adult to kid is probably 1:1.5 – and that doesn’t include the crossing guard. Are the parents going to school? Maybe it is a public bus stop and all the adults are waiting to go to work? And why aren’t any of the kids talking to each other or daring the little one to stock his tongue to the frozen light pole like kids did to me at the bus stop (ah, memories)?

Now, for the life of me I can’t remember a parent ever standing at a bus stop with me when I was going to school (way back in the 80s and 90s). To be fair, my bus stop was across the street from my house and my mother has admitted to staring out the window until the bus came to pick us up (don’t know how she missed me licking a frozen mailbox and getting my tongue stuck for a solid 30 minute). Apparently, several other parents of neighborhood kids knew that my mom would be watching, making their supervision unnecessary. But my parents didn’t know ALL the other kids at our bus stop, meaning their parents were either negligent or simply didn’t see a need to stand in the freezing cold watching over their kids.

For a few years I walked to school. It was probably five houses down my little suburban street so the fact that I was allowed to walk alone didn’t and doesn’t surprise me. But a lot of the other kids walked too – and they were coming from further away. Some even had to cross streets (AAAAHHHHHH!). I also never remember seeing a kid dropped off. The front of the school is a parking lot, and it was practically devoid of traffic. We used to run around and play in it before the bell rang.

But now, the elementary school at the end of my street looks like a mall parking lot before Christmas at 8:00 AM and 2:30 PM. Cars jockeying for the position close to the door, SUVs pulled onto curbs. In the afternoon, they even shut the street down to other traffic because the parking lot overflows and parents need to idle on the street. We used to hear the bell and run out of school and run home in rain, sleet, snow, sun – like little postal service employees. We would play and tease and get in fights and invite each other over for Nintendo and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now kids file out to their waiting SUVs. And forget the PBJ – parents and schools won’t want to serve them in case of allergies.

Was 1987 really that dangerous that we all saw the error of our ways and smartened up and said that it is stupid to let our kids stand at the bus stop or walk to school alone? They are sitting ducks! Or is it that 1987 was safer than I remember, a utopian sitcom-like existence where nothing bad ever happened; but 2010 is the real world, sexual predators so pervasive that they can make an entire TV show about catching them, like some sort of pedophilic hunting program (think about it, can’t you see “To Catch a Predator” both being the show hosted by Chris Hanson from Dateline, and also a show on Versus hosted by Big Jim-Bob Daniels about hunting mountain lions?). It is a dangerous world! We need to watch our kids.

I guess they call this helicopter parenting. This is where you hover over your kids like an LA news chopper watching a car chase. I can think of few things that I would hate myself more for becoming than a helicopter parent. But my tune might change in a few years. Olive is still pretty immobile, I don’t have to worry about making these choices yet. But I do know that I will do whatever I need to keep my daughter safe. If that makes me a helicopter parent someday, I’ll just have to deal with it.

Right now, I just think about how much I would have wanted to crawl out of my own skin if my mom waited at the bus stop with me every day. But I’m sure when Olive is older I’ll feel differently. When she is in second grade I will want a crossing guard at every corner 24 hours a day, the speed limit changed to 15 mph on all public roads and I’ll have a GPS (seriously?) and a Lo-Jack permanently implanted under her skin which I will monitor from my panic room when she is out of the house. For now, I’ll just drive by all the bus stops wondering how I made it through life in such a dangerous world.

No comments:

Post a Comment