Home > City mama, embarassing, motherhood > Not your usual gesture to drivers

Not your usual gesture to drivers

Here is another complication of motherhood that no one warned me about.

The Child has begun to eschew the stroller. I’m okay with that, as long as I’m not hauling groceries, because it gets her more excercise and is easier on my wrists. (Pushing that stroller up that hill is tough for some ergonomic reason.) We have practiced walking on the Bike Path, where she can be a free-range toddler, and now we’re doing more walking on the sidewalks, where I make her hold my hand.

What’s become something of an issue is the crosswalks and streetlights. I consider learning traffic rules pretty essential for an urban child growing up in the most densely populated city in the U.S. so I’ve really begun to focus on rules of the road, avoiding bicyclists and joggers, how to approach strange dogs, what to do with agressive panhandlers, that sort of things. And, of course,

The Child and I stop at each walk light and we talk about how the red hand means STOP and the white walking man means GO. Because I try very hard to model good behavior and because she’s such a bloody literal minded little creature, I have to wait for every damned light to turn to “WALK”. In Davis Square, that can mean that crossing from one corner to another can take ten flipping minutes. (That is a map of the Davis Square intersection. Seriously. )

Adults, of course, are sophisticated enough to know that even though the light says Don’t Walk it’s safe. But she’s two and gets very upset if we cross when the red hand is up. I’ve laid out rules and now I’m breaking them — it messes with her little head.

Sometimes some nice (or not so nice) people suggest that I cross against the light. Mostly pedestrians. I can explain — or try to — that I’m trying to teach a toddler the rules of the road. They get it or they cuss me for being in their way and that’s that.

But then there’s the issue of drivers. Very often people will see me waiting, int eh rain, with a toddler tugging at my hand and they stop and gesture me across. And I’m stuck.

Do I go with a wave of thanks? I don’t think The Child is quite sophisticated enough to get that particular exception — when the light is white except when the driver says it’s okay. When I’ve done it in the past, she hauls on my arm and says, “NO MOMMY! Red hand means STOP!” I’ve tried explaining it to her, but she’s pretty much a linear thinker at this point. I could be underestimating her, but I don’t think so. But, more than that, there’s an issue of safety: The completely screwy traffic patterns of the Square mean that sometimes someone will whip around a stopped car and come charging out into the street where I’m trotting across with my toddler.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of how to explain that to the lovely, sweet, kind, generous souls who have stopped int he middle of the most confusing traffic in the frigging universe to let a shivering mom and her toddler cross out of the sheer gracious nature and philanthropy in their hearts. How to convey, in a non mistakable gesture, “Thank you so much for you lovely thought, but I’m trying to model good behavior for a very literal minded toddler going through a pre-operative stage of learning and crossing against the light seems to upset her world view and faith in laws, her mommy, and the world in general. What’s more, the taxi cab coming up behind you is very likely to swerve out, accelerate around you, and turn me and my daughter, who doesn’t move very fast because she’s chasing an imaginary bug, into a smear of red on the road.”

So far I mostly just smile and wave them on. About half the time they insist and then I scoop up The Kid, mutter under my breath, “Only do this when Mommy says you can,” and dash across the road. I feel like that’s inadequate, but I’m at a loss as to what else I can do.

Except, of course, completely avoid Davis Square.

  1. C'tina
    April 9, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    That is a quandry. I’ve taken to telling my kids “the cars are not used to watching for little kids, they usually don’t see you, keep your eyes up.” You just might try a monologue of running commentary, “First we check the crossing light, then we check the traffic….look that way, is anything coming? Oh, see that car– he sees us, wave to the man, he’s going to let us cross….or nothings coming we can go. When she questions you, tell her the lights are reminders, are there to help, but we can look both ways….we talk about ‘blind curves’ in the road, because I’m terrified of the swerving accelerating cars that come out of nowhere to smear little kids who are riding their bikes and talk talk talking about bugs, not paying a lick of attention….

  2. April 14, 2008 at 11:18 am

    re: “Oh, see that car– he sees us, wave to the man, he’s going to let us cross….”

    This. Having crossed with you with kids in Davis, I totally understand, but think the literal mindedness will lessen a bit in the near future. M seems to sort of grasp exceptions and special circumstances. I share your terror about crazy cabbies though.

  3. July 22, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I just go with the wait it out aproach. I feel the good example is worth the wait. I don’t particularly want her knowing that “Using your own judgement” is an option. Red means STOP … no exceptions.

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