Borderline Worries

My sons took a four-day trip to Seattle two weeks ago to see an experimental rap band (Death Grips) and take in the sights. It was their first cross-border trip on their own, with my older son taking care of the driving, the hotel, and all the costs. The two of them have never hung out together much, being six years apart, so this would be a good bit of brotherly bonding over a shared musical interest. I myself have great memories of a bus trip to Nashville that my older sister and I took to see a show at the Grand Ole Opry when I was a teenager.

Happy as I was about my sons’ Seattle trip, I’m a bit of a worrier mum, so I thought I would be focused on the potential hazards of highway driving or of being in a strange city on their own. (As I found out later, they actually drove back home through snow and took a walk at night through a not-so-great part of town!) But instead, I was mostly worried about them making it across the border!

With terrorism and border protection being top of mind for many, I wasn’t sure how much scrutiny the two young men might come under. Would border control officers be on the look-out for young men travelling alone? (Has watching too many spy shows made me overly paranoid?  Or maybe it’s just watching the news!) Following the advice on the government websites, we tried to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s to make sure that there would be no reason for them to be turned away at the border. Our preparations ensured that they could provide:

  • Passports… of course the 16-year-old’s picture was taken two years earlier and he now looks quite different, especially as the once-short hair now hangs to his shoulders! (Too late by the time I looked at it to do anything about getting a new photo taken.)
  • Concert tickets and hotel booking documentation, in case they needed to prove their purpose in travelling to the US
  • Proof of the older one’s employment and of an address in Canada, so it would be clear they would be returning to Canada
  • A letter of permission for the older one to transport the minor child across the border… apparently better if certified by a lawyer. (I read that at 9 pm the night before! Luckily, my next-door neighbour is a lawyer and she actually answered her door at 9 pm on Halloween, with her little ones in bed and she in her pyjamas!)

I also had to convince my younger son that spiked black leather armbands and black Dr. Martens boots might not be the best thing if he wanted to look non-threatening to the officers at the border! It is hard to convince a determined teenager that, even though he has no bad intentions, it is possible for someone in border-protection-mode to get the wrong impression. (“They’re just boots, Mom!”)

My mother always told me that it’s better to be safe than sorry, but in the end, my worries were unfounded. The border officer took a brief look at their passports, asked them where they were going, and waved them on through. Easy as could be! They breathed a sigh of relief and phoned their mum (me) so she could stop worrying too!

My sons were then free to enjoy the concert — apparently so intense that they left before the second (less-loved) band and spent most of the next day in the hotel room resting! During the trip and despite the rain, they managed to see some interesting sites, including a blown-glass exhibit that they found really fascinating. Due to the weather, they decided not to wait in line for the Space Needle, but otherwise they saw most of what they had planned.

Surprisingly to all of us, it was coming back through the Canadian border that they were most thoroughly quizzed: What was their relationship? Where had they been? Where did they stay? What did they see? Who was the bigger fan? Why had the younger one been allowed to miss school? (Bad mother? My question, not theirs. 😊) Who was the car registered to? etc. I wonder if they get a lot of stolen cars being brought into Canada?

While of course I understand the need for heightened security at the borders, I do miss the days of freer movement between countries. Any travel now has to involve careful consideration and planning. (My planning when I drove to Seattle myself a year ago involved buying the audiobook of Georgette Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage, read by Richard Armitage, which really made my drive enjoyable — but I somehow doubt my sons were listening to anything like that!) In the end, all was well this time around and my sons had a great time on their trip, independently navigating a number of new experiences.

(Top photo from Clipart Library.)

15 thoughts on “Borderline Worries

  1. I understand your worries. It’s hard to let go, isn’t it? For years and years the children are your responsibility, and then they suddenly are old enough to go on foreign trips… I had a similar feeling this year when my 18-year-old went interrailing for two months. Thank goodness for modern technology, though – with WhatsApp and wifi, I received regular updates, complete with photos. Much better than 30 years ago when *I* was travelling and hardly ever got in touch with *my* parents. Anyway, sounds as if your sons had a ball. And what a nice thing, for two brothers to enjoy time together.

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      • Yep, funny. I am totally applying different standards to my own child, than I would’ve allowed my parents to apply to me. But that was all just possible because technology was not as far advanced as it is now.

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    • I often wonder how it must have been for my mother when I was out and about in the days of no cell phones. We’re lucky with the technology today (although it may make it harder to let go). WhatsApp came in handy when my sons were away. And, as you say, it was good for them to spend time together. They’ve actually been binge-watching a show together this week.

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      • It is extremely touching to see siblings enjoy each other’s company. I love seeing those glimpses in my two kids. It is just nice to think that your two boys enjoy each other as people *beyond* the bond of family/blood.

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  2. if you’re a ‘worrier mum’ then I don’t know what that makes me! I go crazy when my kids go on class trips to Chicago (which is 4 hours away), I’d be a mess if they went by themselves. “Adventures in Babysitting(1987)”, need I say more? 😀

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    • My older son actually moved out for a couple of months a few years ago. That was tough for me! I just wasn’t ready! Roommate problems ended that and now he’s back home saving money.

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  3. I, too, miss the days of crossing that border with a driver’s license. Although the quizzing to get into Canada for us has always been more or less intense, even in the 80s. Do you have firewood? Do you have cheese? (We’re from Wisconsin, of course we have cheese.) How much cheese? In the mid 90s I flew to Toronto only w/a drivers license but apparently the rules had changed — I got a twenty minute lecture about how CANADA IS A DIFFERENT COUNTRY and WE’LL LET YOU IN BUT YOU BETTER GET A PASSPORT in the Toronto airport on the Canadian side and then when I flew back, I was told I had insufficient identification to enter the US but they’d let me back in just this one time. Fair enough. The last time I crossed was to go to TIFF where I was staying with a fellow fan whom I’d met via the Internet — the Canadian agent asked me if she knew I was coming, and then if I really thought it was wise to stay in the home of someone I’d never met. Coming back the US agent asked me if I had any cheese. I mean, wtf?? I guess there’s some huge duty on cheese.

    The word around here is that it’s no problem to cross into the US on the Canadian border, going or coming, as long as you’re white. The US border agents are supposed to be horridly racist. FWIW.

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    • Nowadays we can’t even fly within the same country without a passport, at least within Canada. I hadn’t even arranged any passports for the “boys” until a few years ago … didn’t need them until recently. But now it’s best to be prepared for anything. Cheese is a big deal, I think, with high duties over a certain quantity. In terms of race, I have certainly heard stories that imply profiling at the border. My kids are not fully Caucasian, but they look white, so that would not be something they would have to deal with. I was afraid the Dr Martens might give a certain impression though…

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  4. I can totally relate! TBH I don’t even want to think about crossing the Border and in recent years have only ventured to Point Roberts with friends for lunch. One friend’s daughter has a “cottage” over there. Apparently you don’t say she has property over there. Not sure why this would make a difference. But even visiting such a place where one *has* to enter through Canada (or else leave by sea!). For those unfamiliar with Point Roberts,WA check it out. It’s rather unique. As I have family who are from the Philippines I would be anxious nowadays if they had to go to the US. My granddaughters boyfriend is of South Asian descent and has been mistaken for a Muslim before (he *loves* his big black beard) so I hate to think what he might be subjected to. He has already faced rather hostile looks in the past which really bugs me.

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    • Oh that’s really interesting! I’ve certainly been to Tsawwassen, but I didn’t realize that Point Roberts is on the tip of that peninsula! But where you live, you are very close to the border too. No cross-border shopping?

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      • It is interesting, Quite the little anomaly having to come through Canada whether coming or going. A number of people I know owned or still own cottages/small homes and sometimes trailers or manufactured homes on pieces of land in Point Roberts. I’ve heard of groups from the church going over to visit them there for picnics in summertime in years gone by.. It was probably much easier back then to travel back and forth across the Border and I didn’t hear of anyone having problems.
        I do live pretty close to two Border Crossings, roughly about half an hour away or less. There is the one at the Douglas (Peace Arch) Crossing and the other on Pacific Hwy (176th St).
        Point Roberts is a really nice area and we went to a great little cafe for lunch when we were there. The food was great and the staff so kind and friendly. I understand that American children who live there go all the way to Washington State to school on week days. Must be quite the trip.

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