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Tales From The Crib

A bad case of 'Car Run Over'

My three-year-old daughter, Athena, came into the kitchen — to show me the sorry state of the stuffed bear she received for Christmas. — She had been doctoring Angel Bear with toothpicks and black hockey tape. — There were "bandages" over every inch of the bear's body, the black pieces — obscuring her favorite's stuffy's eyes, nose, and mouth. Angel Bear looked — uncannily like a preemie in the neo-natal ICU. These babies, small enough — to hold in the palm of your hand, are on so many life support systems — that their tiny bodies are dwarfed by black wires and plastic tubes.

But Athena had never seen a photo of a preemie or visited — a NICU. She conjured up her baby's bandages, and the accident that led — Angel Bear to be so sick, from her own imagination.

"What happened?" I asked her.

"She has nursemaid's elbow and Car Run Over, that's a — really bad one," Athena answered solemnly.

"Car Run Over?"

"She was lying in the street resting and a car runned — over her with its wheel. She got up from the street and ran onto the sidewalk, — and she killed every single car except that one."

Content that this explained all of Angel Bear's ailments, — Athena ran back to her room to administer a silk scarf ice pack and baby — powder ear medicine.

Car Run Over is actually a catastrophe that I fear. My — three children, husband, and I walk and bike in Ashland as much as we — can. You may have seen us tooling around town - the girls walking on walls — and skipping across benches, the baby squealing "Oo dat!" from his perch — in the back carrier or his seat in the stroller. When the fridge is empty, — we haul a big red wagon down our steep street towing all three kids in — it. The wagon piled with groceries, we push it back up the hill with the — baby throwing tomatoes out of the bags and the girls complaining, "I'm — tired from walking." We use our car so little that the battery recently — spluttered and died. James walked clear across town to buy a new one, — transferred the baby onto his back and put the battery in the stroller, — and trudged home.

As much as I enjoy walking in Ashland, I'm dismayed when — drivers don't stop at the crosswalks, gun through yellow lights, or speed — in the school zones. The girls often bolt ahead and I find myself panicking — and shouting, "STOP at the corner!" I imagine a driver taking a turn too — sharply and running over one of my children.

"Why don't you ever drive?" a mother at preschool asked — me as I buckled Athena into the bike trailer. I so often misplace my keys — that I'm not sure I could drive if I wanted to; our car is so small that — the kids' car seats tremble when you close the doors. You know the stories — you hear of parents soothing their newborns by taking them for a drive? — Forget it. My firstborn hated the car so much and screamed so loudly that — I would intentionally veer towards potholes because the jolting of the — car would startle her into silence for a split second.

Once you get out of the habit of relying on them, you — realize how expensive, loud, polluting, obnoxious, aesthetically unappealing, — and confining cars are. Driving is the single most polluting activity — most of us do. Cars emit three totally toxic pollutants into the atmosphere: — hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxides, which are responsible — for generating harmful ground-level ozone, acid rain, and poor quality — water, among many other nasty things.

They are also moving death machines. Some 42,100 people — were killed in highway crashes in 2001 and more than three million were — injured. It's not that we don't drive on the highways, we do. But as much — as I can, I want to keep my kids safe and that means keeping them out — of the car. I don't want to die. I don't want my children to die — in — a car crash or of Car Run Over.

So next time you see us crossing at the corner, I hope — you'll cede the right of way.

is the editor and co-author of "Toddler: — Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We — Love."