Connie K. Grier wanted to protect her sons from the world. So it’s understandable that she panics when one of her sons ventures on his own by public transportation.
How many of you remember that 70s movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble starring John Travolta? He played Tod, a boy who lived his entire life inside of a restrictive, purified environment. Tod played, learned, ate and slept in the plastic bubble…heck; even his first kiss with his pretty next-door neighbor involved him tasting the smooth clear Plexiglas of the protective shield….
Until, one day, Tod had to make a decision: Would he continue to live his life behind the Plexiglas and in spacesuits, or would he take a shot at experiencing the real world without protection, breathing unfiltered air and living an unfiltered life. Tod’s parents faced a potentially dangerous crossroads. Imagine the agony involved in allowing Tod to make his own decision, while at the same time feeling responsible for Tod’s life to the extent that they had to protect him from AIR.
I will be the first to admit that I have kept my sons in a life bubble of sorts; that I have always felt the need to protect them from the dangers of the world. One example of this is demonstrated by my driving them everywhere. EVERYWHERE. They have always been transported in a car. ALWAYS. I cannot remember one time that I utilized public transportation with my children, even though I traversed from North Philadelphia to Center City twice a day. Everyday. Alone. At the age of 10.
But times were different almost 40 years ago, right?
So, yes. Maybe after they have successfully completed their first couple of years of high school. Maybe after they had grown a few inches. Maybe after they have matured a little more would I be able to contemplate allowing them to ride public transportation.
And then came Work Study!
Work Study that would require one of the twins (and of course it would be the one who lives in his own head, unconcerned for the most part with his surroundings!!) to catch public transportation from school to Colombia North YMCA. And get this; the school wanted MY son on the subway…
I almost fainted when the notice came home. I attempted to keep my face deadpan in front of the boy; in my mind I was already calling Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, cause clearly this was a safety breach. I will confess, I asked the school ONE question…
“How about the C bus? My sons have never taken transportation and I would rather start them off with an above ground route”
“Uh…Mrs. Grier, the subway is faster, there will be two other students traveling with them, and one staff member on each end of he trip”
So I wrestled the tape over my mouth while I internally scream…
“What if the other students are absent?”
“What if he slips onto the subway tracks?”
WHAT IF DURING THE SECOND WEEK, ONE STUDENT RUNS AHEAD, THEIR TEACHER FOLLOWS AND THE TWO OF THEM GET STUCK IN THE SUBWAY CAR, LEAVING MY SON AND ANOTHER SEPTA NEWBIE TO FIGURE OUT THE TRIP AND GET OFF AT THE CORRECT STOP THEMSELVES (yes THIS actually happened).
As the weeks progressed, a routine was established where I receive a brief text when he arrived at the Y, and when he got back to school in the afternoon. In the ensuing three months he has navigated to and from the Y alone, he has encountered his first mentally disturbed face screamer at Broad and Oxford. He has walked alone or with a youth co-worker, to and from Master St. to Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Given a scary proposition, he has definitely risen to the occasion
He does it so confidently that four months later the looks at ME as if I am off my rocker to have ever been worried.
He’s growing up, and I, with my heart in my throat and the Grey Ghost (our family vehicle) at the ready, am beaming with pride.
So talk to me people. Would any of you describe yourselves as overprotective? What are some challenges you have faced around this issue and how did you address you challenge?