October 12, 2011

big city boy, small town girl

At least once a week, ok, more like once a day, Briton starts a conversation with "When I get to ride the subway by myself..."
It's a conversation that generally ends with me saying "maybe, one day, in a few years..." while my brain says "ha! never!" This is followed, inevitably, by me counting down how long we have left in New York. Not because I'm desperate to leave New York, I'm just desperate to NOT have my son be old enough to ride the subway by himself.

The honest truth is that he is old enough. Or nearly so. But don't ever tell him I admitted that. Kids his age, or just a bit older than him, do ride the subways, and the buses, and walk down three blocks to the grocery store to pick up some milk. They have cell phones and they pick up their younger siblings from school. They are city kids.
Another honest truth is that Briton is also a city kid. He always has been. At two he knew how to direct a taxi driver to our flat in Dublin. Kenilworth please, left at the Y intersection, right at the rugby pitch, fourth door on the left, the one with the blue door. If he'd gotten lost somehow, he could have hailed a cab and gotten home without much fuss other than paying the fare. When we walk downtown, he instinctively keeps me in between him and the traffic or stops when he's scootered too far ahead. He does not, like his sister, continue to lick the subway windows no matter how many times her tongue has been swabbed down with hand sanitizer. He has a good sense of who is ok to talk to and who is just, not. He's a city boy.

And I'm a small town mom.

I joke that he is nowhere near ready. That he would get into a conversation with someone or get sucked into a book and end up in Yonkers. But really, he wouldn't. He would be overly aware of where he should get off. He would talk to no one if that's what I told him to do. He would count the stops and walk straight home and he'd be totally proud of himself. I do not doubt it for a moment.

By the time I was in fourth grade, I walked home on my own to an empty house and made myself a snack. And I wasn't much older before I was getting dinner started and picking my little brother up from school. I roamed on my bike and went to my friends houses without being walked there by an adult.

But this is a different time and a different sort of town. And no matter how much he is ready, I am not. I know there are many city parents out there who let their nine and ten year olds head off to school or the store or a friends house on their own, and I respect that, I just can't imagine doing it. In this city where children grow up faster than anywhere else I've been, I'm not quite prepared for mine to make that step.

I can't say, for sure, that by the end of the year I won't be ready for it though. This city has a way of changing your perspective on things. Sooner or later you end up going with the flow. But since I still feel a little flutter in my heart if he isn't back from taking the garbage to the basement in one minute! I sort of doubt it. Taking the garbage out might just have to suffice when it comes to independence for my boy. But never say never, right?