Archive for the ‘train travel’ Category

Parenting In An Age of Uncertainty

I spent the morning setting up emergency contact information on my boys’ phones and researching the best tracking app to add to my 16-year-old’s phone for his weekend at Lollapalooza, the outdoor music festival in Chicago. I also tried to show him a map of the venue and where I want him to head in case of an emergency but he’s not playing along.

Am I paranoid? Well, yeah.

Why wouldn’t I be? Every morning when I check the news there is another story about a shooting/bombing/attack where someone’s child has been killed. It doesn’t matter if the victim is 13 or 30 it’s still someone’s kid and somewhere, some parent is thinking that he or she did not do enough to protect their child.

But how are we supposed to do that exactly?

This morning I was greeted by the story of teenagers being shot in front of their parents as the kids left an all ages show in Fort Myers, Florida. So far reports say that it was not an act of terrorism.

It doesn’t make me feel any better.

My biggest worry used to be about a mass shooting at my boys’ schools but slowly I had to expand my list to include movie theaters, shopping malls, cafes, expressways and nightclubs. And no longer am I only concerned about the unstable lone gunman; now I have to worry about, as the Wall Street Journal noted, terrorists engaging in “indiscriminate targets in civilian life, with the goal of killing as many people as possible.”

I have a hard enough time protecting my boys from injuries caused by sports and and their own stupidity.

As much as I joke about wrapping my kids in bubble wrap and keeping them home there is no way I can really protect them short of locking them in my house (although it still may not be enough for some people).

My younger son thinks I’m an overprotective pessimist. I prefer the term “planner.” Yes, I absolutely recognize that all the planning in the world cannot prevent the unexpected, and, unfortunately, the truly unexpected is fast becoming the new norm. I do believe, however, that having some plan might help – me, that is, because I need to have something.


As if a weekend concert isn’t enough to put me over the edge, my older son is leaving for a semester abroad in Europe in less than a month. It is taking everything in me to let him go. Granted he’s 20 and I probably have little say in the matter but I have contemplated—on more than one occasion—not paying the tuition bill. “Sorry, check got lost in the mail, I guess you can’t go.”

I’ve also considered bribing him with a shiny new car or just a plain ol’ bag of cash. I can’t even imagine him being so inaccessible at a time when the world is so unpredictable.

Of course the world was never “predictable.” Accidents happen, things get stolen, much is out of our control. But, as a parent I worry about it all.

I didn’t really get it until I became a parent. I traveled to Rome 30 years ago for a semester abroad and flew into the same airport where terrorists shot and killed 13 people just weeks before I arrived.

I still can’t believe my parents let me go.

A few months later the US was attacking Libya and we were on high alert for attacks on Americans. I know my parents were worried about me and they didn’t have cell phones, the Internet or Facebook’s Safety Check to stay touch in case of an emergency. I will never forget when I returned home from that trip that my dad’s hair had turned completely white in my absence. Sure, maybe it was time for his hair to go gray but I’m pretty sure it was stress-induced premature graying.

I totally get it now.

So, yes, barring any unforeseen developments in the next month my son go to Europe and my hair, like my dad’s, will turn completely gray while he is gone. I will attempt to arm him with information and help him prepare for the worst even if it seems pointless. I will force him to seek out the American Embassy when he gets to his destination (or I will cut off funding—fast); I will find contacts throughout Europe to formulate an evacuation plan; I will reiterate (over and over and over again) that he should avoid crowds, travel during off times and always be aware of his surroundings and I will hope that all my planning and worrying was for naught.

As for the outdoor concert this weekend, I’ve done what I can. Now I’m just hoping for severe thunderstorms and flooding of the venue. A girl can dream can’t she??

I Left My Baby On a Train!

Ok, I didn’t actually leave my baby on a train. It was my 13-year-old and I didn’t leave him anywhere; I put him on a commuter train heading for the safety of camp in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

Still, as the train pulled away from the station, it sure felt like I placed my newborn on the train and let him go.

It was like that Subaru commercial with the dad who is giving his car keys to his older daughter but instead of a mature teenager all he sees is a little girl in the driver’s seat.

What was I thinking??

Even my husband (he of the “let’s send our kids to summer camp for eight weeks and not have any communication with them” mindset) couldn’t believe that I let our son take the train! WTF?? I thought he would see this as a huge step toward independence.

It didn’t help that I kept replaying scenes from movies over and over in my head as I drove home from the train station.

Have you seen the movie, Source Code? The Jake Gyllenhaal movie where the northbound commuter train in Chicago explodes over and over again? Yes, that scene kept popping up.

Followed very closely by the scene from the movie, Unstoppable, where Chris Pine and Denzel Washington are desperately trying to stop a train from hurtling off the edge of the train tracks as it races toward a sharp bend in the tracks. (Clearly I have to stop watching late night television).

I fretted for a while, wondering if he actually made it to camp then realized, if there really was a problem, I would have gotten a call from the counselor who meets my son and his friend at the train every morning (or at least I would have seen something on the morning news, right?).

Then it hit me: what I was most afraid of when I put him on that train is not that he would end up as the victim of some crazy Hollywood movie plot; it was that he wouldn’t need me anymore.

The more independent my “baby” gets the less he will need me…and then he will be gone.

With my 17-year-old just a year away from leaving for college (and basically gone most of the time already) my youngest is the only one I have left to take care of (unless you count my husband and the dog and my 17-year-old when he is home, but you get the point).

Letting go of my 13-year-old means just that—letting go and not knowing what will happen or where he is or what he is doing. It’s scary…

…and, yet, surprisingly easy to get used to.

Let me explain.

The first couple of days I walked him down to the platform and admonished him to stay behind the yellow line. I waited for his friend to meet him but not for the train to actually show up (I watched for that from the bridge, out of his line of sight).

By the third day I found the walk down to the platform to be unnecessary. His friend will show up, I reasoned. Besides, it’s not like he wanted to sit and chat with me while we waited.


He can’t get away fast enough

Day Four:

My alarm goes off at 6:45 am and my first thought is: why can’t he just ride his bike to the train?

What a difference four days make…

%d bloggers like this: