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?