Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Past Deadline: Angry Bull Drivers

I wear a bright red winter coat and a black hat. I used to think it was a good thing – I show up in the snow if lost in the woods and my kids can spot me in a crowd. Up until recently I believed my coat was a bit of a safety feature – especially when crossing busy intersections. Now I’m wondering if it’s more like a red flag in a bull ring and the drivers are the angry bulls.

This is all loosely tied to a recent struggle I’ve been having with boundaries. As our kids get older they naturally want and need more freedoms and responsibilities. My generation is prone to that phenomenon known as “helicopter parenting,” which is when we tend to hover around our kids a little more than they need. I believe other generations would have called it “over protective” or maybe even “super crazy ridiculously over protective.”

Honestly, though, it seems that every time I decide to lighten up, something freaky happens.

I believe, for example, Boychild is old enough to walk home by himself, but I usually travel with him and his buddies because I still pick up his little sister. She’s in Kindergarten and gets out first, so we wait around for the boys. Lately I had been thinking Girlchild and I could probably start ahead home and let him walk on his own or with his friends.

There are some pretty busy streets to navigate on our route, which has always been a bit of a worry. Still, Boychild’s no dummy. He knows the rules and our trusty crossing guard Lloyd is there to get him across the first hurdle, Wilson Street, so I was seriously contemplating this freedom.

One day last week I was walking ahead with Girlchild and some other kids and Boychild was lagging behind with his buddies. As we approached the intersection of Isabella/Leslie and Wilson Street, I decided Girlchild and I would go ahead across and the guys could catch the next light.

As we were crossing, though, I turned to see Boychild and his friends running at top speed to join us. “Lloyd,” I said, beckoning back, “there are four more coming.”

So there’s Lloyd, standing in the middle of the road with his bright orange safety vest and stop sign. We still had the walk signal, although it started to flash as the boys hit the street. I, wearing my bright red coat, was not quite to the other side.

That’s when some moron in a dark-coloured car apparently decided he’d had enough with the waiting and with obeying these silly laws and proceeded to turn left from Leslie and head north onto Wilson, driving between Lloyd and me just as the boys got to the middle of the street. If I had not turned and yelled “Whoa!” they just might have connected.

Lloyd leapt towards the car and tried to stop him, but the driver kept going. At least one person in the line-up of vehicles waiting for the green light in order to continue south on Wilson hollered a few choice words at the driver.

My crew and I got to the other side of the street and stood for a moment. “Well, gang,” I said, as my heart knocked around in my chest like a trapped bird, “I guess from now on we cross as a group.” I didn’t add: “ then the idiot drivers can just kill all of us at once and get it over with.”

We were all a little shaken up, including Lloyd. You have to be a special kind of person to do the job he does. I bet there are times when he’d like to jump through car windows and grab some drivers by the neck. The fact that he doesn’t is admirable – although I worry about his blood pressure.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. I can’t decide whether I should change the colour of my coat or simply be a helicopter parent forever.

I know one thing for sure: it does no good for my pedestrian kid to know the rules of the road if someone in a car is going to come along and break them.
Published in The Perth Courier, Feb. 10/11

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