21
September

Crying for good reasons

After I made sure that Woo was going to be OK, I got angry at the guy who it caused his accident, angry at people that just don’t care about those around them, angry at the state of humanity. We are trying to raise our little people to care how they treat other people, to be good people. Incidents like this make it much harder, and sometimes they just make me want to throw in the towel. I didn’t give up, but I didn’t feel great.

Luckily I’m surrounded by good people. After I posted Woo’s picture online, he and I received tons of messages commiseration and support. People shared our upset at what it happened to him, and just wanted to make sure that he was OK. There was not one judgemental comment, even though I was worried there would be some (it is the internet, after all). Many people offered helpful advice about how to get him up and riding again. Reading these messages helped us both.

The day after the accident I encouraged him to go to jujitsu class. He didn’t want to, scared that he would be hurt; that something would happen to make his injuries worse. I assured him that we would talk to his coach to ensure that he didn’t do anything that would make his s injuries worse. Still uncertain, he went. His coach was only concerned with Woo. He was shocked at the injuries to his ear and neck, which were quite swollen and bruised at this point, and was surprised to hear that Woo had been wearing a helmet.  Coach assured Woo that none of the class would do any exercises that involve the head area, so that Woo wouldn’t be singled out. He did warn the class of Woo’s injuries, but used it as an example to commend him for bravely coming to class.

He walked out of the class confidently, no longer afraid of being hurt. When he went back the next day, his coach commented again on how lucky he was that he had not been more severely injured. He then let us know that he had used Woo’s accident as an example in all of his classes, letting all his students (the children and the adults) know just how important bike helmets are to preventing injury.  He went on to say that he’d talked to his children and their friends about it on the way to school that morning, and was going to continue to tell people about Woo’s close call, in the hopes that he could convince more people to use helmets (very few riders use helmets in California, and almost none of the children we see do).

In order to get him riding again, I brought Woo’s bike back for repair to the shop we bought it at. There was quite a bit of damage; both front shocks had broken off, the metal on the front fork had actually cracked, and one of the shifter/brake levers was twisted and cracked.  We figured that they might find more damage we couldn’t see and that this repair would be quite costly.  When I explained to the guys in the shop what it happened they were amazed and happy to hear that Woo was OK, but upset at the driver’s behaviour and shocked at the damage to his bike. Knowing that we had just bought the bike there months earlier, and that Woo was upset that his new bike was so damaged, they told me that they would repair it for only the cost of the parts – they were throwing in their labour and the cost of the tune up that it needed.

Overwhelmed by all the good that has come out of Woo’s accident I started to cry right then. They didn’t quite know what to do, so I let them know they were happy tears, and we all laughed. Each person, each kindness has built me back up.  My faith in humanity has been firmly restored.

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13
September

Strangers will make your children cry

It’s been a tough week for my faith in humanity.  It started out at the water park this weekend, when several adults accused three girls of cutting in line for one of the rides.  The girls maintained that they had been in line the entire time, but the two groups of adults kept insisting they’d cut. I assumed that they hadn’t seen the girls, as most of the accusers were behind us, the girls in front.  One group of adults then jumped in front of the girls to get ahead in line, while the others just kept insisting that the girls line up again.  We just let the girls go when it was their turn, but I didn’t realize that they were crying until Woo told me at the end of the ride.  Then I got mad.  These were children, trying to have fun at a WATER PARK, you know, a magical wonderland for children.

Then Monday, Woo came home upset.  He’d been biking home, and a car honked at him when he stopped at a stop sign.  Woo is a very conscientious cyclist.  He has researched the rules of the road, and has been taught by both parents to respect them.  He does, without fail, so I reassured him that he’d done no wrong, and should continue to stop at stop signs.  I’ve also been honked at for stopping at stop signs when I am driving my car, so I knew how puzzling this could be.

This afternoon, I was making an appointment for Goose and missed a call from Woo.  It was followed shortly after by an urgent text from Willy, asking that I “call now!!” I hung up on the doctor and called back.  He reported that Woo had been in an accident, and that he needed to be picked up.  I flew out of the house and drove to the spot on Woo’s route home (the long route that he takes because it is through the neighbourhood and less busy, the route we’d thought would be more safe).

When I arrived, he was standing at the side of the road talking on the phone with his dad.  A neighbour* was standing beside him, keeping him company and keeping him calm.  Woo’s bike was laying on the road, in pieces.  I grabbed him in a hug and he started crying.  He was bleeding and bruised and scared.

Woo explained what happened, as best he could.  He’d been riding on the road, about 1.5m from the curb.  He heard the car come up behind him, and started moving closer to the curb when the driver honked at him, startling him.  He looked at the car to see what the driver wanted and veered off into a brick mailbox. Hard.  He didn’t understand why he’d been honked at, when he was doing nothing wrong.

To the driver of that car, the thing I don’t get, is how do you not stop?  Woo is a clearly a child, in his school uniform, with his backpack on his back. He crashed his bike AS YOU WERE PASSING HIM.  There is no situation where I would ever drive away from a cyclist who had crashed, especially not a child. As much as I am relieved that Woo is mostly OK, I am so angry at this driver. You have to be a special kind of horrible to keep driving. Now I am angry and scared that there are people out there who care so much about where they are going, or what they are doing, that they trample all over children (both literally and figuratively).

*I am so grateful to the neighbour who stayed with Woo while he waited for me.  He was the bright spot in an otherwise terrible event*

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Woo’s bike, in pieces

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Some of Woo’s wounds

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8
September

Afraid

When the littles first started school in Canada, there was an incident at their school that stayed with me for a long time. It started out as a normal day, save for the fact that Woo was home sick. I took him to the grocery store to pick up some medicine, and on the way home we drove by the school. In front of it were a dozen police cars and several firetrucks. Terrified I drove through our neighbourhood to the emergency pick up location, as I knew Goose was likely there and scared.

As I walked from my car, I passed two moms that I knew from the yard. The look on my face showed my terror, and they reassured me that everything was OK. I quickly found Goose’s class. Her teacher was sitting with three crying children on her lap, trying to calm them all, when she was really not calm herself. I grabbed Goose and headed home. Later that day we learned that a man had entered the school with a “gun”, pulled the fire alarm, and locked himself in the principal’s office. No one was harmed and the gun actually a toy. It seemed that this man really only wanted help for himself, and his was an attempt to access it.

Life slowly returned to normal in the school, but every time I heard sirens in the neighbourhood, my heart rate increased and I thought about the littles. My mind always went to the school, and if the sirens meant that they weren’t safe. I reacted like this for a long long time, and I know other parents from the school did as well.

The week after we moved to California, there was a wildfire. We found out about it because we heard many, many sirens. They went on for 10 to 15 minutes, going past our house to the south. Realizing something was up, I looked out the back windows and saw the smoke over the mountains that are behind us. I didn’t know how big the fire was or how close it was to us but the news that I found on Twitter indicated that it was big and growing fast. I let the littles know about the fire, and I told them they should be prepared to go if we had to. The fire wasn’t very close, but I’ve had friends have had to evacuate from wildfires, and they never got a lot of notice. The fire burned for a couple weeks, and never really threatened our house, but we did have smoky air and ash falling on our house for several days.

After that, anytime we heard a siren in the neighbourhood the littles would ask if I thought that was a car accident or if it was because of the bad drivers here that we were hearing sirens. I thought it was a strange reaction and downplayed the sirens, reminding them that emergency services respond when 911 is called, that sirens don’t always mean that there’s been an accident or someone is been hurt, or that it’s a fire. It wasn’t until we had a repeat of the fire response; many, many sirens, all going through the neighbourhood.  It was another fire, and this time when we could see from our house. As soon as the littles discovered the flames, they packed up everything precious that they own. It wasn’t a bad response given that we could see the fire, but the frantic way they went about it told me that they were really afraid.

That fire was extinguished quickly. It was a grass fire that didn’t get very big, and only destroyed an empty shed. It was just our misfortune that we could see it from our house. Since that fire, they have gone back to asking about the cause of the periodic sirens that we hear, and I have realized that they ask and attribute the sirens to other causes because they need to know that it’s not a fire. I know how the sirens can be triggering for them, and that in time they’ll get over this fear. Until then I’ll continue to reassure them that not all sirens mean emergencies and that not all emergencies are going to affect us. Hopefully it will help them to be a little less afraid.

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8
September

Extremes

Like any good Canadian, I am going to talk about the weather. Not in the climate change / big picture kinda way, although every sane person knows that it is a thing and most certainly not fake news. This is especially relevant with the horrible storms that are destroying lives in the southern US and Caribbean, but we’ll save that for another day.

Up until six years ago, I had lived my entire life in Ottawa. Every year, the summer was hot and humid, the fall somewhere between gloriously sunny and abysmally rainy, the winter cold cold cold and snowy, and the spring nonexistent. I was pretty tolerant of it having never known anything different. Then we moved to India. While the vast majority of India can be very hot and humid in the summers and actually quite cool in the winters, Bangalore, for the year we were there, was perfect every day. It was sunny and warm but also very dry, and the monsoon missed us in 2012 so it actually only rained five times when we were there. The hottest days were hot but they only lasted for about two weeks. We were spoiled, and coming back to Canada was a big adjustment.

Our first year in California has been marked by extremes. Before we moved, Willy told me that it never rains in California, and that the summers are hot, but not too hot. He lied, and I delighted in calling him out on it. This past winter was the rainiest year in forever for California. It rained every day for 10 weeks, wiping out seven years of drought. It was also colder than expected. We had frost on multiple mornings, even though I’ve been told that it might only happened one or two days in the winter. Everyone that I met told me “oh, it’s never like this.”

When the rains ended in early April, California came to life. The wildflowers were amazing, and everything that had been brown became green. It was quite beautiful, but only lasted for about three weeks. Apparently three weeks of hot sunny weather with no rain is all it takes for everything it was green to become brown again.

It hasn’t really rained here since April, and everything shows it. The relentless heat has certainly been a factor. Where we live in South San Jose the high temperature has been at least 35°C since the beginning of June. There was a week before we went to Canada where the temperature hovered around 45° for three or four days. People keep telling me that it is never this hot for this long, but the summers are usually warm but not like this. This whole summer has made me glad that we ended up at the house with a pool, despite the fact that the water right now is almost too hot for swimming.

This past week has been the most extreme yet. Temperatures all over the Bay area have been setting records. The city of San Francisco record of the hottest high temperature ever on Friday. Life in our little valley was uncomfortable and gross. The temperature peaked at 48°C on Saturday, which with something I never thought I’d see. In fact I told the kids that the weather they experienced in June was the hottest they would ever feel. As they delighted in pointing out I was wrong. I guess the California weather has made a liar out of me too.

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