This morning, as I was enjoying a cup of coffee and the autumnal morning sun from my balcony, I noticed a young girl across the street. I quickly recognized her as the girl who lives in the apartment building next door. In one hand she held a bag containing two loaves of bread. In the other was the hand of her younger sister. The girl is about 8 or 9 years old. Her sister is probably 2.
At first, she stood on the sidewalk, looking both ways. I waited for her mother to appear. But she never did. I became concerned as I saw the two step into the street, between 2 parked cars. Two Turkish words immediately popped into my head. The first was “dur“, a word I learned from driving here. It means “stop.” The second word was one I learned early on before I moved here. “Imdat!” “Help!”
The two girls stood there for what seemed like an eternity. Terrible visions were running through my head. Turks drive like bats out of hell. And my small street is no exception. It gets a lot of traffic with impatient drivers. To make matters worse, my street is divided by a wide grassy median that sits up about 2 feet above the road. In addition, it’s actually more like 2 roads, one headed north and one south, with parking on both sides of each.
These girls were attempting to cross the road without their parents. I watched closely. What worried me most is that pedestrians are as bad as the drivers. They have no right of way. This forces them to run out into the street, no matter what is coming, to get to the other side. On my first visit to Ankara, I actually saw a man with no legs crossing a street on his forearms.
My fears were eased as the older girl waited patiently. They finally crossed safely when there were no cars coming.
Something like this just never happens in the U.S. anymore. That 9-year old would never have had a chance to show how “grown-up” she could be. In the States, we have become overly protective of our precious children. When something happens to our children, we create new laws. We’ve come to a point where we don’t trust strangers to even say hello to our children. I guess there is some good that comes from this attitude. But I have to say, I was proud of this little girl today. She doubtless did not realize the beauty of the freedom she had just experienced, being sent to the store if only across the street, and being left to care for her sister at the same time. Sometimes, American kids just don’t know what they are missing.
When parents do not teach their children independence, they have failed at life’s biggest job.
I learned this lesson with my daughter at Hyde School just in the nick of time, and am eternally grateful to the Hyde community.