Monday, July 25, 2011

This Summer, CTA means "Children Travelling Autonomously"

The words Independence Day carry a new meaning in our house this year. You see, my sons have discovered the CTA. Of course they’ve been using public transportation their entire urban lives, but now it’s different. Before, we used to go with them. And when we took them places on the El or the bus, I’m certain they never paid any attention to where we were or how we got there or how to get back home. It’s like when you’re a passenger in someone else’s car. Unless the driver specifically asks you to navigate (or you’re my mother), you just trust they’ll get you there.

Since they’re starting high school next year and a CTA bus will be the school bus, over the course of the last year or so we’ve forced them to pay attention to the public transportation process. I mean, these are the same two kids that used to get lost crossing the street to fetch a stray ball. Last spring, my husband took it upon himself to get them to a friend’s house across town via the El and a bus, telling them the next time they’d be expected to do it on their own.

The boys have never looked back. Now that they’ve realized the freedom and possibilities public transportation has opened up for them, they are all over it. This summer has been filled with get-togethers (can’t call them playdates anymore) with their friends all over town. They’ve even gone to pick-up a few pals whose parents couldn’t drive them over and who hadn’t received clearance for independent CTA travel yet. In fact, when going to meet some friends at the movies the first week of summer, they were mortified when our sitter offered to drive them. “No! We can get there!”

This is yet another reason we chose city life. Sure, they’ll learn to drive. But they won’t need to. And they may be especially motivated not to when they learn the car they’ll be sharing is going to look an awful lot like the beat-up ’99 Camry parked in the garage. Even if we fix the busted-out headlight, I doubt it will ever scream, “chick magnet.”

In the mean time, their newfound independence is especially fantastic for me, in that I no longer have to plan to pick them up and drop them off all over town. All I have to worry about is getting my daughter back and forth to the places she needs to be. In other words, their independence means more independence for me.

It's both fantastic and bittersweet.

I love that my boys are now CTA savvy Children Traveling Autonomously. But I miss having them around. Today they're on their way to school for a meeting then off to a friend's and with my daughter at camp, our house is weirdly quiet for a summer afternoon. Despite some mild concern when the boys headed out for the bus stop and Kyle turned left and Ethan turned right, I suppose I should just suck it up and relax, be happy and enjoy the quiet. And for those of you who'd give me a token (remember CTA tokens, eh?) for my thoughts, understand that independence has to be a part of the process if you're doing it right.

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