Welcome, Thursday! The BibbedWonder had “Driving Miss Teenie Duties” this morning and drove me to my doctor’s appointment in Pittsburgh. On our drive home, we discussed how times have changed since we were kids. What sparked this conversation was our conundrum with what to do about The Bean at 6 a.m. on a school day. Eric and I had to leave for my appointment at six this morning. My bean doesn’t catch the school bus until much later. She is now fourteen and a half…she adds in the half, although she actually isn’t fourteen and a half until June. Do you remember the days when adding months to your age made such a difference? Now, I try to retract the numbers of my age. You will never hear me say, “I am 50 and a half! I’m almost fifty-one!” Nope, never going to utter those words. Ever. Anyhow, I digress. Our dilemma was what to do with my girl to ensure her safety and make it to school on time.
We usually have several options for people willing to hang out with The Bean when we are indisposed. The big issue was that it was so early in the morning. She could have stayed at a friend’s house, but she would have to have special permission to catch the school bus at a different stop, thus requiring the parents to drive her to school. I really didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. We could have asked Jenna to hang with her, but Jenna has the stomach flu. Our other options involved friends with small children or jobs. We felt like we didn’t have a lot of options.
At fourteen, I feel as if it is well within normal expectations for The Bean to get herself on the bus. Don’t get me wrong; she is a highly responsible kid. I know she would/could get ready by herself and make it to the bus stop at the end of our lane. However, therein lies the problem. The bus stop is at the end of our lane, a half mile away from our house, on a low-traffic dirt road, with no one in sight, with some pretty questionable characters who travel said isolated dirt road. In my mind, this was never an option. Ever. She will be forty years old, and I will continue to wait for her at the end of the lane.
Ultimately, it was GramBarb to the rescue. The Bean spent the night with GramBarb, and GramBarb agreed to run her to school in the morning. I told them I didn’t care when she made it to school as long as she got credit for the day. This dynamic duo went to breakfast, and The Bean made it to school by nine o’clock. My responsible little buddy insisted on being at school for her math class. She is more responsible at fourteen than I am at fifty. Personally, I would have blown off my math class. Anyhow, again, I digress.
The Bibbed Wonder and I discussed my parents’ more relaxed approach with me and leaving me alone when I was a lot younger than my bean. My mom was comfortable leaving me in the toy section of Hill’s Department Store when I was seven or eight. I was not permitted to leave the Barbie aisle but would be left unattended for a half hour or so. When I was eight or nine, my cousin and I would meet on horseback at the midway point between our houses. The midway point was on a deserted road complete with a graveyard. We would pack a lunch and leave our homes around nine in the morning. We did not have cell phones and gave a general direction in which we thought we might be traveling…no accurate plans were ever made or shared with our parents. We might end up at Andy’s Market on Route 119 to purchase a pop and a candy bar if one of us had thought to bring money. We traveled trails in the woods, gas well roads, and back roads and followed streams to see where we would come out. We would eat lunch on the trail, in the woods, or beside a pond on an abandoned farm.
The only rules we had to follow were to stay away from the highways and be home by dusk. We felt like rebels when we rode to Andy’s Market or found a trail leading behind Ruby’s Gas Station on Route 286. Ruby would give us a suspicious look as she sold us our candy bars and soda. When we walked out the door, she called, “you girls get away from this road with those horses. If you don’t, I’ll tell your dad.” We didn’t go to Ruby’s Gas Station very often. The thought of her telling my dad was enough to keep me away.
I can’t imagine turning The Bean loose into the world with no communication for hours on end. The very thought of it makes me feel sick to my stomach and panicky. Understand, dear reader; it’s not my bean I don’t trust; it’s the rest of the world. I wish my girl could experience the same freedoms I experienced as a kid. I wish she had a best friend like I did who would share in adventures and melted candy bars and warm soda with her. I wish, as her mom, I didn’t have to worry about her being hurt. Sadly, that is not the world in which we live anymore. Eric and I believe the Adam Walsch tragedy changed the world for children and adults alike.
I was nine years old when Adam Walsh disappeared. Eric was a one-year-old baby. GramBarb refused to let Eric out of her sight because he was a beautiful blue-eyed toe head, and she was certain Satan worshippers were hiding around every corner, just waiting to snatch him and sacrifice him to the dark lord. Apparently, there was a big concern about Satan worshippers in the eighties. I did not know this. Anyhow, once little Adam Walsh disappeared, and only his severed head was found a few weeks later, my parents became a bit more strict with boundaries and check-in times.
We could still leave in the morning, but we had to check in at lunchtime, and I had to wear a watch. We were also forbidden to ride anywhere near a property just down the road from our housing development. A rumored child molester lived in a mobile home surrounded by junk. Under no circumstances were we permitted to ride our horses near his property. I remember this as a pivotal moment in my childhood. For the first time, I understood or at least grasped the concept that not all adults are good and that bad things can happen to children.
This understanding permeates the minds of parents and kids today. Not only do we worry about strangers hurting our children, but we also know that most abusers are people in trusted positions like family, friends, neighbors, religious leaders, and doctors. Sometimes, I feel as though I don’t trust anyone with my most beloved person. When we lived in Brookville, I had two friends/neighbors to whom I entrusted my baby’s care. I think I only had to utilize them as babysitters twice. I wasn’t the kind of mom who needed time away from my child. She was too precious to me, and we worked too hard to get her for me to feel like I needed to be away from her. I was blessed with the opportunity to stay at home with her. For that, I am forever grateful.
With the knowledge of the world’s ways, we can never return to the innocence I experienced as a child. Now, we have phrases like stranger danger. Legislation is in place to keep kids safe, like Amber Alerts and Megan’s Law. We can now go to websites and see firsthand how many sex offenders surround us in our communities and homes. My daughter is aware of her surroundings, has taken self-defense courses, and is moving up through the ranks of TaeKwonDo. Her reality is carrying pepper spray, a whistle, and knowing how to use everyday objects as a weapon. No, my darling girl will never walk to the end of our lane alone and wait for the school bus.
On this sunny Thursday in March, stay safe, be smart, remember the good old days, be prepared for our world, and keep washing your hands.