Ahh it’s tourist season. That time of year when out-of-towners descend on my city in hordes to see all the same sites I now take my children to regularly. Before I had kids, I was unfazed by visitors. I accepted it as part of living in the capital city of my nation. In fact, I welcome the occasional opportunity to be a helpful local and point the lost in the right direction. But this season, I’m impacted by site-seers in a different way because Teddy and Lydia attract their attention (more so than usual).
We’ve worked hard to teach Teddy and Lydia street safety. They both love to run ahead and jump over “circles” (aka sewer covers and the like). We’ve taught Teddy to stop before the “bumps” (the textured material at intersections to assist blind people) and look for the “person” (silhouette) and accompanying numbers on the crosswalk sign before crossing the street (we’re still working with Lydia on this). He knows to stop at intersections (he knows numbers and a person means it’s ok to walk, but he also knows he has to hold our hand when we cross the street), and I let him run ahead, sometimes quite a ways. And Lydia knows to stop with him.
During the winter, Teddy can run ahead of me down the sidewalk and into the metro station by our house without holding my hand and won’t draw a glance from anyone. The majority of people out on the streets and in the metro are locals, focused on their commute. They aren’t paying any attention to a little kid zipping down the street. But tourists, they’re a different story. Their JOB is to look around! They may be on their way to something, but they’re constantly glancing about to locate landmarks and ensure they’re walking in the right direction. And they’re on vacation, so they’re not rushed (generally). So when a young child comes careening toward them as they stand waiting for the light to change, they’re understandably a little nervous. They don’t know he knows to stop.
And when Teddy was younger, even when I would run after him, they wouldn’t always connect me to him. They’d see a little black boy running and a white woman behind him and wouldn’t assume I was with him. Instead they’d be quite concerned. I have heard so many people ask Teddy where his mother is! This doesn’t happen as frequently now that I’m pushing a stroller with another black child, although Lydia prefers walking around, too. She’s obviously not as fast as Teddy, so I have to stay behind with her while Teddy runs ahead.
One recent afternoon, the three of us were hanging out in a little green space in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue and the kids were
terrorizing chasing the dozens of ducks trying to enjoy the greenery. I was keeping watch a few feet away, to make sure Lydia didn’t leave the area, when a middle aged man walked through the park, eyed Teddy and Lydia, didn’t seem to notice me, and instead gestured toward two black women dressed in business attire chatting on a bench, and asked if the kids were with them. They just looked baffled while I called out that they were with me and waved.
Which is what I do every time. And that’s what I’ll keep doing every tourist season until the kids are big enough to run ahead without causing alarm.