I want my kids to be safe. But I don't want them to be pretentious turds.
Also, I’d like to be a little less sensitive about being viewed as a pretentious turd, but it's too late.
I was raised on a healthy diet of loathing rich city people. The yuppies, my dad would proclaim, were going to ruin us all with their greed and selfishness. I didn't even know what those were. Did yuppies have tails? Were they the sea monkey people advertised in my comic books? (I would eventually splurge and get the sea monkeys only to be dunked in the kind of disappointment usually reserved for adults.) The whole hating-the-city-people thing put me on a precarious path: I'm not supposed to like them, but I really want them to like me. Part of that means to not disappoint those around me because, of all places, I now live in the city. In the suburbs of the city. The very yuppie-spawning roost about which my dad had mongered so much fear. (And, to be fair, he may have been onto the whole greed’s-going-to-end-us thing.)
But this brings me to where I need to be for this story, and for this particular bit of insecurity about my kids wanting to be safe. It's at this crosswalk near our house. It has a stoplight because it's by a school and, in the middle of a weekday, it makes sense for kids to punch that crosswalk and herd their way to safety. There's a hill and, well, yuppies hauling ass to and from their greed nests, so it makes sense that the kids get a fighting chance. But...and this is where I reveal just how substandard my strength is, I discourage my kids from pushing the button on weekends and at night. Yes, engaging the crosswalk is still a good habit. But just imagine you're trying to get home and you're on an empty street. It's just you and the lonely road to get you to your final resting place. Sure, there's a pedestrian light, but who's going to push that--oh, those people. And it sets off the walk signal for thirty seconds. That's great when there's fifty middle schoolers, but it's just me and the kids coming home from the park. Well, me, the kids, and this one pissed driver who is forced to sit and watch us dance past and then, while they wait another twenty seconds, see us skip and giggle into the open arms of the life ahead of us.
It just makes me nervous that someone is going to lash out. Do a road rage lurch into the intersection. Peel out and barely skirt us with an anger swerve. I put myself in their shoes and know it must be pretty annoying.
I tell the kids when there's just one car zipping up the hill, don't push the button, just let it pass, then check both ways, and go ahead and go. Not all of life is going to have pedestrian crosswalks so I want them to be prepared.
But that one car. That's going to be the end of us. It's like the opposite of crosswalk safety. That time when a seatbelt kills you instead of saves you. The kids and me celebrating our blacktop freedom as we inadvertently taunt some dude who thought he was so close to home and his toilet. And then 'boop' the road stops and they must sit for half a minute with an excruciating piddle pounding on the front door.
Last night the boys abided by my driver-friendly rule, and I felt good for letting a lone sunset driver get past. But then Eliot snuck up and pushed the button. (Which, btw, if you're paying for trips to Disney and not milking your child's desire to simply push buttons for entertainment, you're getting ripped off.) She loves the button. And, like a guillotine, the red light severed this dude's way home. And the boys skipped across. I bridged the gap between them and Eliot, who did a little dance. It must have looked like a shameless touchdown celebration for cocky pedestrians. I offered a little smile to the blank-stare of the incredulous driver. You know that parent thing you do when your kids shout something about their latest trip to the bathroom at Target, "IT WAS A DIFFERENT COLOR THIS TIME DADDY" and you shoot that little, "kids, mirite?" grin that you hope spans the gap.
We got a across and continued up the hill. The car was still sitting there, idling away the last daylight of an unseasonably warm December day, as we all did our happy walking into the dusk.
If anything, the kids are safe … while they unwittingly stick it to the yuppies.