As a parent, it’s rewarding to see your children become self sufficient and independent. But when you are watching them do it from a distance, it is also a little nerve-racking.
Like this weekend for example…our daughter, Valerie, who has been in school for a little more than a month at Chapman in Orange County, decided to go visit her friend UCLA.
The distance between the two schools is about 40 miles as the crow files. The trouble is that in LA, crows don’t fly; they get in their cars and get on the Golden State Freeway heading north. But Valerie didn’t take her car with her when she went away to school so this left public transportation as her only option for making the trip.
Yes, Virginia, there is a public transit system in Los Angeles County.
But figuring it out takes some work. So in the days leading up to the trip, Steve and Valerie spent many hours chatting on FaceBook while Steve sent her links to the train and bus schedules. The problem was that Valerie’s only previous experience with public transportation was getting on a bus for field trips in elementary school, so deciphering timetables and routes was pretty overwhelming for her.
With much patience, Steve helped her plan an itinerary for getting from Orange to Westwood. She could walk from campus to the Metrolink train station, take it to Union Station, from there take get on the Blue bus line until she reached Santa Monica and then transfer to another bus which would take her the rest of the way to UCLA. And hopefully this whole process would take less than a day.
Valerie’s plan was to leave on Friday night. But at about 6:00, I got a text from her younger sister, “Alert! Valerie drama!” When I called home, Steve told me that Valerie had gotten to the station late, didn’t know how to find the number on the train and had almost gotten on the train to Riverside. Of course, she was very upset and embarrassed that she had failed in her plan to go see her friend.
Steve and I tried to encourage her that things had actually worked out for the best. Thank goodness she didn’t get on the wrong train and end up in entirely the wrong county just as it’s starting to get dark. We told her that it would be much better if she tried it all again on Saturday morning when she was rested. We knew that she had to give it another try and succeed so that she could feel a sense of achievement in her ability to be independent.
Saturday morning, she called Steve to confirm the number on the train and the departure time. She was nervous and scared about failing again. We reassured her and told her to not be shy about asking people for help for directions.
When she called again to report that she was on the train and had just passed Fullerton, Steve and I felt a huge sense of relief. She was heading the right direction!
However, when she got to Union Station and asked for directions to the bus line she got some bad information. Apparently, the person she asked didn’t know the difference between USC and UCLA and just about had her getting on a bus to Watts.
Thankfully, she called to check in with Steve who pulled up Google maps and got her oriented in the right direction. But from that point on, she had to be on her own. As much as we wanted to we resisted the urge to call her for minute-by-minutes updates: “Do you see the bus? Are you on the bus? What streets are you passing?”
What we really wanted to do was jump in the car and make a six hour drive to downtown Los Angeles and rescue her from uncertainty so that we could know she got safely connected with her friend.
In the end, not only did she get to UCLA and have a great time with her friend, she made it back to Orange County seamlessly the next day without even one call home.
We are proud of her and we know she is proud of herself. When she happened to run into some old classmates in the UCLA cafeteria, she told us they were shocked to see her. “Aren’t you going to Chapman? How did you get here?” She answered them with the casualness of experience. “Oh, I took the train. It’s really not a big deal.”