Girl On Foot Conquers World


Girl On Foot Conquers World

The day I found out I was having a second daughter was one of the most joyful days of my life. I was sure she was going to be a boy and I felt deep dread. You see, I grew up with older and younger brothers and felt the full impact of all their creative flatulence, massive dietary needs, arbitrary aggression, and constant insensitivity. 

I benefitted from the opportunity to learn to play lots of sports and defend myself. I got plenty of practice slapping, punching, and kicking and know a few wrestling moves that could help if someone were trying to kidnap me or just felt bored and wanted to pin down the nearest smaller human. But it was tough, and having two daughters is my reward for getting through those days. 

My older daughter is 15, and I think she is amazing. She is lovely, smart, funny, sensitive and practical. We collaborate well and respect each other’s opinions. I do my best to respect her boundaries and she is patient with me.

My second is almost 12 years old. She is beautiful, smart, creative and opinionated. She has little desire for my input, suggestions, rules, and opinions. I am often called upon to be a sounding board, though, and I carry out that responsibility as graciously as possible. That means I listen for 5-10 minutes and then I go to the bathroom.

Two daughters mean dinner table conversations are possible, regardless of their age, because they look up from their food and chew, then breathe, in between bites. The other day we were talking about city planning. (My husband and I make a point of telling them when their interests coincide with a known career path. They know what we are doing and think we are lame.) 

The almost-12 year old wants to design a city.

She doesn’t want to be a city planner, but she now knows there is such a thing. We put on our listening ears while she told us the kind of city she would plan. It was a little bit Manhattan and a little bit Paris.

This is a kid who was born and lives in the Los Angeles area and understood the negatives of traffic by the time she was 5. 

She wants a walkable city. She wants little stores on every block and big parks here and there. She wants a bus that takes you everywhere you need to go. She didn’t say a word about cars, or parking.

I used up one of my four-sentence allowances to explain that our city (and our region) is not possible to navigate on foot because we devote a lot of space to parking and we emphasize freeways over public transportation. I also said I loved her plan, but it meant no Costco and no Target.

She was OK with that. 

I ventured a little further and said most city planners don’t get to start with an empty space and build up – most start with a city already in place. She said she could easily rearrange our city.

First, she wants more parks for people and for dogs.

Second, she’d do something that sounds a bit like re-zoning to me. She’d rearrange clusters of small strip malls and encourage the presence of small grocery stores, hardware stores, pharmacies, bookstores and bakeries – the bakery being an essential component.

Third, she’d add an affordable tram or trolley that runs the length of our busiest streets so we could get to other retail areas, the hospital, and Target.

I didn’t bring up the issue of travel to places farther away on the map and ask her solution. That’s probably where the car rental site on the outskirts of town comes in.

This is a kid who doesn’t have a license or any understanding of the joy of driving a car with the wind in her hair or the satisfaction of finding a parking spot right when you need it, right where you need it. What she knows is she can’t get anywhere she wants to go, besides school, without begging a ride from her annoying, and sometimes unwilling, mother. She wants freedom.

Whatever the future holds for her, and for the parking industry, I like the way she’s thinking. 

She’s going to grow up and apply her point of view to whatever she creates. She’s going to leave behind my outdated expectations and form a life that looks the way she wants it to look. She probably can’t design a city from scratch, but she will make any place she goes a better place. And hopefully, she’ll want to share it with me.

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick
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