Friday, January 20, 2017

Letting Him Go (Across the Street)

This year rather than an extremely long bus ride from school or much quicker ride in the car there, Ethan's had a chance to walk to and from school. I've mentioned this before. The walking to school thing is just one more item on Ethan's list of Why the New School is Better than the Old One (older kids; cooler mascot; a school store; and shouting pep rallies in the gym with the principal, to name a few others).

I enjoy the fact that Ethan's school is close enough to walk to, too, except for one small issue: I feel as if some days he's nearly risking his life to cross the street to get there.

To explain: we live on a busy street that crosses an even busier one, where the school is. All Ethan has to do in the morning is cross our street, walk an eighth of a mile, wait to turn right when the Walk light goes on and the crossing guard helps him get across and over to the school. Simple? It would be, if people didn't constantly 1) speed down our street 2) run red lights and try to turn on red lights and 3) constantly turn right on red even when the sign says not to.

As a kid I was walking with a friend (no parents) on our own to school by first grade. But we lived in a tiny town with no stop lights. Until this year I've always driven my kids to school. I'm not used to this. And yeah, I'm not quite sure how much to trust my kid.

Crossing our street in front of our house scares ME sometimes. So I don't feel too anal or helicopter-ish wanting to help Ethan get across. And truthfully, he's a smart kid, but once in a while he'll get in his own head and lose focus. You can't forget to look both ways when you cross our street. It's more like, look both ways and then do it again. And run.

What I want to be able to do is help him get across and then watch him walk off to school. I can see the intersection from my house. I can see the crossing guards. It's these crazy drivers that have stopped me every time. There's been close to 10 times already that the crossing guards have had to start screaming with their hands out, at cars turning, coming way too close as he's inside the crosswalk, walking with the blinking Walk sign. This makes me so mad I can't think straight. It also makes it harder to let go.

A few weeks ago was the worst of such incidents. There was Ethan, in the crosswalk, when a car attempted to race through a red light and turn left directly into where he was walking, oblivious. "ETHAN!!!" I screamed, at just about the same moment the crossing guards were screaming at the car, "STOP!!!"

In that moment when I screamed, I realized something. Ethan had been startled by my yell and the crossing guards coming from two different directions at the same time. As a result, he sort of froze in place rather than moving.

My overprotectiveness had in fact just made the situation more dangerous.

"Why were you yelling?" he asked me that afternoon.

"Didn't you see the car?" I asked.


The other day I had an early appointment and Dan was the one to see Ethan off to school.

"Mamma, I don't want daddy to walk me to school," he protested in advance.

"You'll have to talk to daddy about that," I told him.

Sure enough, later on he told me that daddy watched him cross the street (on his own!) and then watched as he walked on his own to school.

Just like that.

I'm still most likely going to keep walking with Ethan to school in the morning. I don't mind getting a little fresh air, and I like to chat with him on the way.

I'm also probably going to put a call in to the police department about the drivers at our intersection. Several people (including the school) have suggested it.

And I'm going to keep talking and reminding Ethan about tricky cars and unsafe situations, and which directions to look when crossing; to pay attention.

But he is nine years old. I have to let hold of the reins just a little bit. In this case, that means letting the crossing guards do their job. They're very good at it. They're looking out for my child. A lot of wonderful people are during the school day.

I always have to trust that he IS learning better to watch out for himself; to think; to be responsible.

This is what letting go is all about: teaching, giving them the tools, and then stepping back just a little to see how they do. Not too far. Baby steps...for both of us.

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