Thursday, July 14, 2011

Finding Her Way

Jessie has a pretty straight-forward relationship with the GPS.

She hates it.

Apparently it makes me yell and swear.

“Don’t bring that GPS!” she insists if she sees me grab it as we go out the door.

“I won’t go if you bring the GPS!”

This has something to do with the trip to Boston we took last year. How I made her call Dan on the cell phone (he flew into Boston while we drove down from Maine) and say we were going to be hours late because the %^&*$ GPS had me going in the %^&* wrong direction, and now we were somewhere near *&^%(#$ Woburn and &*&^%$@ hours away from ^&*^%$ Boston. ^&*#!!! With another ^&^+#$ for good measure—just in case the cows in the field hadn’t heard me the first time. Jessie didn’t really have to relay this to Dan over the phone, as he was able to hear me perfectly clearly.

However, as I have learned to restrain myself (or how to read the GPS so I don’t end up in a river), Jessie is beginning to see its benefits.

Take, for example, the other morning—the first morning she was traveling to the Y's Owl Summer program completely solo, with no coaching or what I call “invisible support.”

“Invisible support” usually involves me hiding in bushes or sitting in the car around a corner making sure she is getting where she needs to go, but there to intervene or guide if she calls. This is not a strange lurking disease or a bad case of helicopter parenting, but a very well-known tool (at least among some of my acquaintances, which might tell you a bit about who I hang out with)—used by parents of children with disabilities to provide experiences of independence without full frontal pain (such getting hit by a car, for example). I.e., mom’s there if you need her— she appears magically and reinforces your sense of her omniscience, but is not there at all if you don’t need her and you can feel proud that you did it all by yourself!

While we had practiced and rehearsed the trip (me with her; me with her, but distant; me following behind in a car etc…) in all its variations, the trip to Y's Owl is, in all honesty, a challenge. A long bus ride and a long walk down a street with only one sidewalk (and that one under construction). All complicated by the return trip home—which requires the same long walk along the same street with the sidewalk under construction, PLUS crossing (with lights) a six-lane major road. Given that sequencing (not to mention directionality) is not Jessie’s strong suit, there were bound to be some random street crossings leading to unplanned explorations of the city’s nether regions.

So I wasn’t surprised when I got a call from Jessie just at the time that she was supposed to be arriving at the YsOwl site. But I was surprised by her request:

“Mom . . . I think you better bring the GPS!”

And she was right! She was so lost I couldn’t, at first, find her on google maps. (You are WHERE? Okay. Find a street sign and read me BOTH names. Watson Creek? But the only Watson Creek I can find is a greening reclamation project outside the city?!?!)

It turned out she had, as predicted, crossed roads when she shouldn’t have and turned the wrong way down streets. I finally did locate her and told her to stay put until I rescued her. I was no longer interested in teaching, just in getting her to her program on time so I could get back to work (hmmmm, and I wonder WHY I work from home!).

As we drove up to YsOwl Jessie noticed Drummer Boy (also doing the same summer program) at the bus stop, waiting for the others to join him.

“What’s up DB?” she yelled out the window.

“I got lost,” he replied, “I walked the wrong way.”

“Then how did you get here?” I asked, since there was no mother/rescuer/maker of miracles accompanying him.

“Oh, I just know that if I get lost, I re-trace my steps.”

Brilliant boy. And while my daughter may need a GPS to find her way around the city, it looks like she doesn't need one to find a good guy. She's already got one.

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