Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Walk on...

Our first daughter was a newborn when a mom coworker gave me this little bit of advice:
“Welcome to motherhood,” she said. “From this day forward, you’ll never know a day without fear.”
I was stunned. This wasn’t exactly the new-mom advice I had been expecting.
What? I said.
Fear for your child, she said. Worry about their safety, what could happen to them, where they are and what they are doing.
As a new parent, and therefore know-it-all mom, I shook my head.
Wow, I thought. How cynical. How jaded.
How about, “You’ll never know a day without joy?”
How about, “You’ll never know a day without love,” or “a day without the happiness only children can bring to a family”?
I’ll never be like that, I said. (This was coming from me, the person who had been a mom for all of 84 days.)
What can I say? I was young. I was innocent. I was clueless.
A few years ago, two of the Huffman girls asked to walk to the Register after school. Some of their classmates had walking rights, and they wanted to walk, too.
You would have thought they were asking to walk from school to the North Pole.
I agonized over their request.
How long would it take? What route would they walk? Would they get lost? Were there crosswalks? Would cars stop for them?
Never mind that when I was their age, I would take off on my red 10-speed Schwinn for hours, almost days at a time. I was on that bike from 8 a.m. to well after dark on some nights. I rode to the mall, to my friends’ houses in the country, in and out of city streets — cars or no cars.
There were no cellphones, bike lanes, GPS tracking or buddy systems. When I got home, no one demanded to know where I’d been or what I’d been doing. I was home in one piece, that’s all that mattered.
The week before “walk day,” I drove the girls the route they would walk. Never mind that we’d driven to and from school on almost the same route 8,347 times. This was different. This time they’d be on their own.
After you leave school, turn at the eye doctor’s office, I told them. Then cross at this crosswalk, the one at the four-way stop. Even though it’s a one-way street, look both ways. You never know when some tourist ends up driving up First Street the wrong way. Would it be too much to ask them to wear those neon orange safety vests? Hard hats?
Do not stop to talk to anyone, I said. I don’t care how innocent those tourists look. First they’re asking for directions and next thing you know you’re hopping into some rental car headed Upvalley, going wine tasting and pointing out your favorite restaurants.
I purposely mapped a route for them that made them pass both the police and fire station. You can never be too safe, I figured. Maybe a friendly officer could stop traffic while they crossed the sidewalk between the police station and the Register.
Three years later, the girls had successfully conquered walking from school. The big bad wolf did not get them. No one got lost, kidnapped or ended up in St. Helena by accident.
While they sometimes balked at walking on a hot day, I could usually entice them with quarters for the vending machine and instant hot chocolate in the break room.
Now that they’re older, I like to think I’ve mellowed out. A little.
Recently, I had what I thought was a great idea. A classmate of the youngest Huffman rides her bike to school. Maybe our daughter could meet her at her house and they could ride to school together.
I told my husband about my plan.
Are you crazy?, he said. Ride her bike to school? I don’t think so.
I thought about our oldest daughter, who is well on her way to getting her driver’s license. In my mind, riding a bike to school pales in comparison to teenagers driving real cars.
It’s not safe, he said.
What about cars? They won’t see the girls, he said.
And backpacks? Their backpacks are way too heavy.
Would they ride on the street or the sidewalk?
I think they could do it, I said. I’ve seen her friend riding her bike to school, I said. She stops at the crosswalks. She keeps both hands on the handlebars. She’s not weaving in and out of traffic or riding with no hands down the middle of Jefferson Street.
I don’t think this is a good idea at all, he said.
Sheesh, he really needs to stop worrying so much, I thought.
Yeah, easy for me to say.

No comments: