Monday, July 11, 2016

Boogie Parenting - Ribeirão Preto, Brazil

Buggy aka "Boogie"

I'm not much of a helicopter parent. I grew up in my parents' school of "go have fun, be back when the porch bell rings, and if you're muddy, that's fine, just go clean it off." Yes, I wore a helmet when bike riding (at least until I got around the corner and out of sight of mom) and wore a seat belt and was pretty clear on right and wrong ways to get back at my older brother (sarcasm, yes; chop up his favorite blanket into small bits, no) but I had a wonderful, nature-filled and independent (to a point) childhood. Thanks, mom and dad! 

Now I try to do the same. I don't let the kids ride bikes without helmets, they don't get on a pony in any country without a helmet, and they won't own hoverboards or motorcycles in my lifetime. Yes, I will chase them down when they are 35 years old and on Harleys, and knock them off. I did not go through NICU bull-oney to have them splatter it all on a roadway.

That being said, I have been known to let them out of my sight. They disappear to neighbor's houses, to a town park across the street from a hotel in Vermont (that was not popular with the mother of the girl with whom they were playing) and I don't have a porch bell, nor really a porch, but maybe I shall invest in the former.  

And then I get to Brazil. And the "boogie". The "boogie" is really the "buggy" pronounced cutely in Portuguese. It makes me smile every time--"the kids are off in the booooogie"....yes, yes, they are. 

Interior of the boogie. Fancy, no? No engine cover.

The buggy is a deathmobile designed by lunatics, or possibly my inlaws. Just kidding. It runs on diesel or some kind of fuel that smells like you are going to blow up within seconds. It has no muffler, no environmental protection, emits gigantic mushroom clouds of thick grey smoke and seems a heartbeat from exploding at all times. It's possibly 40 years old, has marginal brakes and extremely tough manual steering. It is the most fun that two generations of BH's kids have ever had. I say two generations because almost 15 years separate my stepkids from my kids. Until they see the buggy.

15 years ago, I watched my stepkids roar around the farm with their uncle on its "seats"--currently thick-cut foam, but other iterations have been cardboard pieces and other flotsam--screaming with laughter, no helmets or seatbelts. I will have to find the photos when I get back to the US of my stepkids when they were small so I can put together a retrospective on the buggy (I hope you are all saying "boogie" in your minds).


So when I saw the yellow and rust colored buggy parked out back of the weekend house last week, I knew that the air was about to get a whole lot more polluted. And sure enough, the day after we arrived, my son Lalo disappeared out the back door with Marcos, the ranch manager for the last 20 years. Marcos is a calm presence who has adored my kids from day one, even as they break various items, mess up, well, everything, and make his day just a little bit tougher. He just smiles and fixes what's broken. I have no worries about Marcos, except for one: he finds Lalo, my kid who takes risks and lots of them, extremely hilarious. 

While eating my second piece of delicious French bread, the house was suddenly shaken by a sound roughly like 14 semi trailers simultaneously starting up and colliding at the same time. The air was filled with the smell of an oil refinery. Suppressing my helicopter thoughts, I sashayed down the hall in my moose pyjamas to see what was going on. Too late. In a cloud of dust and dung (one of my favorite lines from a Hobbit sendoff book), Marcos and Lalo were off--Marcos sitting up on top seat back and Lalo steering and working the iffy accelerator and brake. 

Off they went down the driveway, disappearing around the corner. I pretty much knew where they were from the cloud of smoke following the car, and they got suspiciously close to the roadway. No helmet. No seatbelt. Marcos. L.a.l.o. As in, who is in charge here? The big kid or the little kid?

Big Kid and Little Kid arrive back. With smoke cloud.

I refilled my coffee and Nico and I went to watch the arrival of the pair back on the driveway. While no good pictures exist of this moment, I cannot tell you the happy looks of Marcos and Lalo as they roared by. Nico had just finished saying "I want to go next!" when the buggy zipped across the lawn, and crashed into the only light pole on the whole property. Nico and I watched as the pole fell over as if in slow motion. [I have a video of this moment but I can't get it to load up--where are my teenagers when I need them?]

I started to laugh. Yeah, I'm a bad mommy. I didn't even know if someone had been hurt so it was not a good reaction. But the whole lightpole-in-slow-motion-crash was simply hilarious. It was like America's funniest home videos. Nico said immediately "I don't want to go anymore" and Lalo called out "I'm fine, mom" and Marcos was still moving so all's well that ends with a broken lightpole. And a buggy hood with a huge crevice in it. The steel bumpers were fine, by the way. The buggy is a champ.

Two hours later the lightpost was fixed (it was actually a rusty bolt that caused it to fall over) and the buggy had a new silver scar up its front hood. Unfortunately for the kids (and fortunately for everyone else) the temperamental buggy would not start again that day or the next. But it will be back, of that I am sure. It's indestructible. Much like my nerves.

Back to the US tonight. And helmets.

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