At 11, my oldest daughter had never ridden the bus alone. There are murderers, you see, and pedophiles, and suspicious old people who want to give kids candy that isn’t necessarily candy and everyone knows ice cream truck drivers sell weed out the back of the white van, duh. There are stray dogs and drunk drivers and what if she accidentally unhooks someone’s gate, walks into their yard, down a hill, and falls into their uncovered pool? It could happen. My daughter is best described as unobservant. Put her on a bus, add an iPod or book, and she is likely to be across town before it dawns on her that she’s missed her stop.
This all changed last month when we decided to go carless for a while.
Me: If I get off at the train station to go to work, she’ll have to ride at least six blocks alone, then walk four. It’s not that she’s not able to do that, she’s just…
Husband: And unaware.
Husband: And kind of Amelia Bedelia offish.
Husband: We’ll tell her who to look out for.
Me: Rapists don’t usually wear t-shirts that say I’m a rapist.
Husband: She knows not to talk to anyone.
Me: Anyone? There has to be some person she should be comfortable stopping to ask for help in case she gets turned around or something.
Husband: No men.
Me: That’s pretty sexist. The white men on Capitol Hill are usually fathers with kids strapped to their bodies, out walking their dogs. Harmless.
Husband: You’re pretty racist. Why’d you single out white men?
Me: Damn, I did. I didn’t know I was a racist. This is a learning experience.
Husband: Besides, white men are serial killers who hide body parts in their storage
Me: You are so judgmental. Maybe they just need companionship. Black men are high.
Husband: I’m not high.
Me: Well not right now, but society says you have a penchant to get high and then you might try to eat the faces of sixth graders walking alone down the street.
Husband: So, women. White women are safe.
Me: White women are safe! Yeah, we are closet sexist racists. She can’t ever leave the house again.
I started riding the bus with her two weeks ago. For the first week I got off the bus with her, walked her to school, hoping she was paying attention to her surroundings, and then went to work. The second week I got off at the train station and let her continue. Alone. Watching that bus ride away has been one of the absolute hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The first day, I asked her to text me when she got there. By 9:00 I was wringing my hands, wanting to call the school office to make sure she’d been in first period. I sent her a text message at 9:06:
Me: Are you there?
Her (at 2:15!): I got here safely, yes.
Rather than be grateful she was able to get herself to school successfully, I typed back:
Thank you for your timely notification, oh daughter I thought was stolen.
What she said next just made me laugh at my idiocy:
Mommy, no one’s stealing me. There are too many of us, we’d fight.
Me: Who’s we? Who’re you talking about? What people -- did anyone --
Her: My friends! I walked with my friends who got on after you got off.
Oh! Friends. Other fully capable 11-year-olds who walk four blocks alone and aren’t made to think about closet sexist racism. And here we were thinking she’d be living with us until she was 52.
Note from Jia: When Arnebya first filled out the form to be a guest blogger, I thought, "This post could be hilarious!" And then as I clicked on her blog link I silently muttered, "Please don't be white, please don't be white, please don't be white." And then her blog, What Now and Why popped up with her image and I let out a sigh of relief, because she's not white. She's awesome and wonderful and is my new sassy black friend! I asked her on Twitter if I could say black. She said I could.