For a few moments, I felt that I was making the worst parenting decision of my life. Sending my son off into that throng of people, armed with only his best intentions and a cell phone, I winced in anticipation of all the things that could happen at the moment he disappeared into the crowd. He was carrying cash. He is still quite small for his age, and he is eternally trusting. I figured he would probably get mugged or, more likely, sold a handful of magic beans.
Then I refocused: This is a thirteen year old boy who walks to and from school in Oakland. I was not putting him out on the trackless wastes of the Australian outback. I was turning him loose on the mean streets of Disneyland. Sure, he had to leave the friendly confines of the Magic Kingdom to walk all the way upstream to the Lego store, but he would be within shouting distance of an obsequious cast member virtually the entire distance. His confident look gave me some solace, and the fact that it was usually me that adopted the laissez faire attitude while my wife was the one who tended to cling more tenaciously knocked me out of my reverie.
I wished him good luck and encouraged him to call us once he had made his purchase and then once again when he returned to the main gate. His initial plan was to take the Monorail for at least half of the journey, but when it broke down, he went ahead and hoofed it for the entire trip. After thirty minutes, I began to relax, just enough flinch mightily when my cell phone began vibrating and when I heard that he was not under lock and key in some Disney detention center but rather on the horns of a dilemma over which Lego set to choose, I unclenched. He was fine. He was doing precisely what we had asked of him. He was taking care of himself.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, on the Sunday before the start of school, he set his own alarm for six thirty and got up on his own. He got dressed and headed out the door in rehearsal for his upcoming daily routine of walking up the hill to school. I heard the door close. I drifted back to sleep. I heard the door open again. He had made the circuit in about forty-five minutes. I called him into our room, and I asked him why he had taken so long. He shrugged and suggested that maybe it was because he was reading "on some of the less-busy streets." This wasn't Fantasyland or Tomorrowland, it was Realityland. And he was fine.