A child with his backpack on waits for a subway train as it pulls into the platform


How I’m Teaching My Child to Ride Public Transit Without Me

Jun 13, 2017

Every Monday afternoon at 3:15 p.m., my heart is in my throat.

Somewhere out in the big wide world, my 10-year-old daughter is riding public transit to Guides with friends. With no adult supervision. Without anyone reminding her to look both ways. Or watch for cars, or avoid strangers.

My generation is notorious for being helicopter parents who want to protect kids from everything.

This wasn’t my idea. But when this weekly activity was scheduled for right after school, it became impossible for us parents to orchestrate our usual carefully choreographed carpool. One of the moms suggested the girls go it alone. Gulp.

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Not wanting to seem overly paranoid, I agreed. My generation is notorious for being helicopter parents who want to protect kids from everything, and I admit I’m no exception. There’s a part of me that wants to cover my daughter in bubble wrap and jet her around until she is 18. But I know I can’t. Or at least, I shouldn’t.

So we hatched a plan — one of the parents would accompany the kids on the streetcar until they got the hang of it. The idea being, gradually, adults would hang back letting the kids take the lead. Observations would be shared. Challenges met.

Like most parents my age, I feel I grew up in a different world from the one I watch my daughter learning to navigate.

And, oh, there were many! The first day, my daughter took out all of her stuff from her backpack on the streetcar causing mayhem when they got to their stop. Another time, she put herself in danger by knitting (yes, knitting!) while walking down a busy road. Sometimes a bus came instead of a streetcar. Occasionally it was rerouted.

One time, the girls got separated resulting in minor panic (mostly mine). I tried to drive by and spy on them once, just to see for myself that they were being careful. Unfortunately, I drive a red car. My covert operation was quickly foiled.

I was ready to pull the plug on the whole experiment. I mean, we live in a busy city — the dangers seemed endless. But then one of my mom friends gently reminded me that, ultimately, this is how they learn.

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Like most parents my age, I feel I grew up in a different world from the one I watch my daughter learning to navigate. I used to walk everywhere on my own. Some of my fondest memories are going to the store or pizza shop without my parents in tow. I want my daughter to have the same thrill of experiencing her world on her own.

When the girls were eventually granted their freedom, on one of their first forays alone they stopped into a donut store for a treat — with only 25 cents to share between the five of them. The kid behind the counter made their week by handing over an entire bag of timbits. The girls will probably remember that the rest of their lives.

One of the hardest parts of parenting is learning to let go. I used to be my daughter’s world, but now her world is bigger. And this is just the beginning. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m just taking it one streetcar at a time.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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