I got into a little argument on Facebook recently.
Someone said (and I’m paraphrasing here):
Oh, it’s so sad. A child was hit in a crosswalk this morning on his way to school. Please be careful everyone.
Then another person, whom I’m just going to call the “Douche Bag of the Day” responded (again … paraphrasing):
Ahem, not to seem insensitive, but who is really at fault here? Shouldn’t kids watch where they’re going? And shouldn’t parents blah ditty blah, hell-in-a-hand-basket, when-I-was-a-kid blah blah?
Again, you know, paraphrasing.
And I saw red, because some kid that very morning was rushed to the hospital as his bike lay crumpled on the sidewalk and a whole bunch of other kids and probably a crossing guard were doomed to relive the exact moment over and over again in their heads for a number of days if not weeks.
And some parent was pacing in a room with outdated magazines wondering if she should call all the relatives and feeling like she was going to throw up at the same time her throat was constricting and so jumpy that if someone tapped her on the shoulder right then they’d have to peel her off the ceiling.
And here’s this Facebook commenter positing on the state of parenting and kids today and wondering who was at fault?
That’s when I did what I have patted myself on the back for managing to avoid doing the past few weeks. I shot off a remark that wasn’t as carefully worded as it could have been. In fact, it may have included a pointed reference to the possible lack of intelligence and sensitivity of a particular commenter wondering about the fault of children having the audacity to be in a crosswalk at the same time a car needs to be there, and the parents who should have raised them better.
GAWD, I am tired of the “what are parents actually doing these days” conversation.
I’ll tell you what parents are doing: they’re breaking their ever-loving backs trying to control absolutely everything in their children’s lives without simultaneously smothering them.
They’re trying to find the perfect mix of “fly, be free!” with “wait, first let me wrap you in Teflon-coated bubble wrap because someone’s out there actively worrying about whose fault it is if he hits you with his car. In a crosswalk. In broad daylight.”
In this week’s episode of “What are Parents Actually Doing These Days,” we’re going to listen in on a conversation between mom and her fourteen year-old, who has just saved up his dog-walking money to buy a longboard, which, you may know, is longer than a regular skateboard, with bigger wheels and more stability. Better for commuting, in general, and apparently for hanging out with your cool eighth-grade, longboarding friends.
Kid: I’m going to ride my longboard to school tomorrow.
Mom: It’s dark when you leave for school. Why not take your longboard on the bus and ride it home from school?
Kid (heaving exaggerated sigh): Okay.
Mom: And take the back way. The way with sidewalks. The traffic is slower and less crazy.
Kid (heaving exaggerated sigh): Okaaaay.
Mom: And be sure and text me when you’re leaving, so I know when you’ll be home.
Kid (heaving exaggerated sigh): Okaaaaaaaaay.
Mom: And wear a helmet.
Mom: I’m serious.
Kid: Nope. No. No Way. I’m done with the whole thing. Skateboarding. Everything.
I wanted so badly to say, okay, I’m sorry. I’m being unreasonable with the helmet thing. Even though we all wear bicycle helmets and skiing helmets. Skateboarding is somehow different.
And he probably would be all right, right? After all, no one ever required I wear a helmet growing up. I didn’t even own a helmet until I was a fully-fledged adult. Nobody I knew did. Very few people wore seatbelts, either, when I was growing up. There were no car seats or booster seats or airbags or anything, and the vast majority of us survived more or less unscathed.
And here was my introverted, bookworm, couch potato kid wanting to hang out with friends, and be outside in the sunlight, getting exercise. That was a good thing, something to be encouraged, not trampled upon by an overprotective mom insisting on proper safety gear when in all likelihood the kid would be just fine.
But I came back to the kid on the bike in the crosswalk (who is going to be okay, thank God) and the people who prioritize making it to work on time over everything else, and who expect every child to somehow be at their most attentive when they’re not actually programmed that way and, really, not even biologically capable of being fully conscious before mid morning anyway.
So I let the conversation go for a bit, and then started doing a few Google searches for “The coolest, most awesome skateboard helmets on the planet.”
I found a few helmets with Hello Kitty, and others with dinosaur spikes.
I showed him one that was painted to look like a watermelon, and another that looked like a brain.
There were helmets with skulls and helmets with biohazard symbols. I couldn’t find one that looked like a massive head wound (you know, he’s a fourteen year-old boy), but I looked.
So I let it go again. The next step would be to find a skateboarding role model who could tell him about the time he almost perished after hitting his head. And then, maybe an emergency room tour.
I want the kid riding that thing. I do. I just also want what I think is the bare minimum of safety gear snuggly secured on his noggin.
Later that night, when everyone was supposed to be in bed, I got a text.
“Okay, maybe the one with the 8-ball on it.”
Which is how it has come to pass that my kid is going to be out and about wearing what I think is a vague reference to cocaine or meth or something, but it could also be just about a magic fortune-telling toy or plain old billiards. Whatever. It’s all good.
Please, just still watch where you’re driving.
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