walking the walk

It’s disgusting how rarely I walk my kids to school. It’s a ten minute walk – even at kid pace – and my office is another three minute walk from the school. But our walking average would be lucky to come out at about one day every two months. As I said, it’s disgusting. Of course I can put it down to the so-called New Witching Hour. But you and I both know that that’s an excuse.

At the moment, however, we are walking to school. Not because I have come over all ‘some kind of wonderful’, but because the car’s stuffed. However, the enforced amble has made me realise – yet again – the joy of the school walk.

This afternoon, as we rounded the corner into the home straight my son said, “Mum, I’ve been thinking about this for years,” (he’s all of seven years old btw), “I’ve been wondering… how do you tell a blind person about yellow?”

I looked at his philosophising little self and had one of those moments – you know like in a movie when the camera zooms in and the background simultaneously zooms out. At least that’s how it felt. My boy, and his wondrous seven-year-old-awesomeness was in sharp focus and all else had faded to grey.

Of course this wasn’t the first time I had had a walking epiphany. And so, as is my wont, here’s a blog I prepared earlier. It is still completely relevant and, sadly, we’re still not walking to school half as much as we should.

PS – Walk Safely to School Day is on May 7th this year.

My Walking Epiphany: Is This How We Find Magic?

My kids love walking to school. They love it so much that I alternately promise and threaten them with the walking to school scenario. “If you go to bed early I promise we can walk to school in the morning.” Or how about, “If you don’t turn off that TV and brush your teeth NOW, we are not walking to school!”

I find it so bizarre because as a kid I hated walking to school – probably because I had to do it every day – rain, hail or shine. I even had a yellow raincoat which was quite fetching when teamed with the green shade I sported as I watched other kids being driven up to the school gates in the luxury of the family car.

We only live about 10 – 15 minutes from my kids’ school so you would think we could manage to walk every day. But I have my own personal litany of excuses as to why I must increase the size of my carbon footprint by jumping in the car most mornings.

However, a couple of weeks ago there was a “Walk Safely to School Day”. This national event seeks to promote road safety, health, public transport and the environment. Well of course my kids begged to walk to school. (Actually they rode their scooters so I hope that still counts.)

With the kids proudly displaying their “Walk Safely” stickers, we set off. My son proceeded to break every road rule I have ever  taught him. I think I shouted at him the entire way, probably feeling the pressure more than usual as an ominous headline loomed. Surely Levi was not going to be the Child Hit at Pedestrian Crossing on Walk Safely to School Day?

I had calmed down considerably by the afternoon when I picked them up. And I guess because there’s no bell ringing at our house, the walk home was altogether more leisurely. Indiana rode on ahead as Levi dawdled behind, with me in the centre carrying their school bags and Levi’s – now discarded – scooter.

It was in this crucial central position that I had my ‘walking epiphany’. As I watched Indiana scoot proudly in front, testing the very limits of scooters and stray stones and seven-year-old balancing abilities; and as I listened to Levi behind me plucking cattails from someone’s front garden to use as wizard’s wands against the neighbourhood pets which had now become marauding demons, it suddenly occurred to me, “How good is walking?”

I have been doing some research on how modern pressures and the pace of life are threatening childhood. The relentless rush to playdates and after school classes and carefully organised entertainment has taken away some of the slowness and quiet time which is where the magic of childhood is created.

As I ambled home with my children that day with no pressure except how many biscuits I should put with their after-school milk I felt I had found the secret to restoring a measure of this magic – the free walk. A walk with no time limit, no rush, no hustle. A walk where adventures can be dreamed and conversations with imaginary friends can take place. A walk where the kids can test how to hop up and down gutters; where big sisters can teach little brothers the technicalities of skipping; and where a wandering cat is an object of delight.

My epiphany was so great that I vowed to walk a lot more with my children.

Needless to say it hasn’t really happened. But I promise if they go to bed early …

Do you think modern life is too fast? Where do your kids find childhood magic?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “walking the walk

  1. I have to say… From the day we started preps to the day we finished high school we rode bikes to school. Well, maybe not the *whole* time but you get my drift… So at least for the first 5 years of school, Mum rode a bike to school with us. Back in those days we only had one car. But it was nice, relaxing almost to ride home in the afternoon, chatting along the way.. I love your writing Jayne!! xxx

  2. The witching hour is called Hell hour here… and hour is a misnomer. It can be hell day sometimes 🙂

    I would love to walk to school with my son but it’s a little far for a prep child & then I’d have to walk back home to get my work stuff and I’d be late for work because hell day starts at 7:30am 😦 These are good excuses for my lazy self too but as son gets more able to cope with the demands of school we will walk. I hope…

  3. My own kids are young and inquisitive, I think having four kids helps them stay away from the TV because they like to play together.

    Kids grow up so fast these days because of the internet and mobile phones, I think its great that your children are living the ‘childhood magic’ age. It also seems as though you have rediscovered some of that magic yourself!

  4. We slowed the fast life down a couple of years ago when we started home education. No so rush rush any more around here. 🙂

  5. Being a non-driver has meant that we take most things pretty slowly around here, and all after school activities have to be within bus or walking distance. We’ve been lucky that it has all worked out that way.

    I so understand the peace and “slowness” of walking with your kids. My daughter catches the bus up the hill once a week to her music lessons, and afterwards walks down the hill where I meet her at a small park and we walk the rest of the way together. Other afternoons she runs in from school and heads straight back out to play with the neighbourhood kids, so this time is our catch-up. We talk about our days every night around the dinner table, but this is just for her and me. She seems to open up so much more about things that are bothering her or the little successes of her day. Even when her younger brother is with us he tends to run ahead and she walks beside me and talks. (He and I do our talking while she is at her lesson. Funny how talkative he is when Little Miss Chatterbox isn’t around.)

  6. I always walked to school as a kid, even when it poured with rain, but that was because my Mum never got her driver’s licence (can you imagine?!).

    My kids walk to school, but then, we’re on the same street and same side of the street that the school is. I can even watch them walk down on their own and see them enter the school gates!

    But if we lived further, I’d still want to walk. We walk a lot with our boys places. I always find it a good time to chat. In the car, you’re concentrating and everything sounds louder. Outside in the fresh air it seems easier to listen to the banter! And it’s a nice way to pass the time on a walk.

  7. Chris

    My 7 year old dawles, procrastinates, it’s like driving on a 100kph freeway behind someone doing 50kph and there is no way to overtake.

    It seems no matter how hard you try and hasten her preparation for school, we always seems to be getting out the door 10 minutes before school. So we have no choice but to drive, well that is what i tell myself.

    I know I could try and prepare food earlier, wake up earlier and get out the door to walk to school. It is actually easier to walk than drive as you have to negotiate a shocking intersection when driving it.

    Must stop making excuses and walk it more, i actually like walking and you get to have wonderful conversations with your kids.

    As for a blind person who has never had vision, there’s no real way to explain colours, I have heard people explain by using other senses as a reference like hot is red, blue is cold. But they really mean nothing to them. I once heard that the visual cortex of a blind persons brain is used to decode other sensory stimuli such as hearing and touch. Don’t quote me on that though, no an expert on the topic. Have had a long association with visually impaired people through my blind friend.

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