My son may not be safe in all the ways that he could be. He might not be safe at all. But I want more for him than his bodily safety and my peace of mind. I also want him to grow up flexible and free and unafraid...
This little essay on one of the ethical dilemmas of living with children abroad appears in its entirety on National Geographic's Glimpse.org (see the link below).
As I lurch towards the windshield, I watch the pickup driver’s face.
“What that noise?” my toddler asks.
I pull his thirty-pound body back to my chest and tighten my grip. I don’t look behind to see the sources of the screeching tires sliding towards my taxi’s bumper. I’m just watching the man, hoping he feels my fury. But his face remains serene. He’s just making a left turn across four fast-moving lanes the way one does in Mexico.
“When cars stop fast, the tires make that sound,” I say to my son as the pickup man finishes his turn and our taxi resumes breakneck speed.
My little scholar of all things automotive begins to rehearse this new addition to his repertoire.
Which is why we wear seatbelts, mutters the American-mother voice in my head. But this lesson is mine alone: a Christ on his cross dangles from every Mexican taxi’s rearview mirror, but there are no seatbelts.
My current home in Mexico is the most recent in a series notorious for wild roads. In India, the end of every bus ride came with the elation of survival. In Ecuador, most human modes of transport also ferried livestock. And in El Salvador, the history of corpses on the roads is as long and dark as the rules are loose. But I wasn’t a mother when I lived in those places, and, while I had a healthy respect for the dangers I assumed traveling those roads, I loved watching the blur of the road through rust holes between my feet...