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Walk This Way

May 24, 2009

It’s strange…in some ways, my kids are much more sophisticated than I was at their age.  Yet I remember having much more independence than they do now. 

Starting in kindergarten for instance, I walked about a mile to school every day (each way…but it wasn’t all uphill and never barefoot in a snowstorm) accompanied only by my older sisters and other kids on their way to school.  By the time I was in third grade, my sisters were no longer in elementary school and I was on my own.

I also remember playing outside with neighborhood friends, unsupervised, for hours every day.  Mom knew we were around somewhere and would return en masse at 6pm for dinner, after which we headed back outside until dark. 

Does anyone allow their kids to do that anymore?  Would Andy Griffith even allow Opie to do so if they lived in present-day Mayberry?  (More to the point, would present-day Mayberry still be a small town Utopia or would it be populated with glue-sniffing toughs shuffling around in pants perched precariously below their boxer-clad buns?  And if it was, wouldn’t you be willing to pay to see Aunt Bea give them a severe tongue-lashing complete with scolding finger wag?  I’d like to see that on YouTube). 

My kids are now in third and fifth grade, and I still find myself walking them each day.  It’s only about a quarter of a mile.  Ten quick minutes (as long as I keep cracking the figurative whip so they don’t fall into lollygagging mode) on a sidewalk along a road clogged with parents taking their own children to school.  Adult crossing guards work the big intersection, so the trip is about as safe as you can get.  Yet there I am each day, trudging along with all of the other parents walking their kids to school.

So why am I so loathe to let them walk or bike on their own?  If I consider the issue intellectually, it’s easy to recognize that they are perfectly capable of getting to school and back safely – as long as they’re going during the school “rush hour.”  But if I consider it emotionally, I go into over-active-imagination-mommy mode (see About SavvyMom  if you haven’t read it already) and visualize every possible nasty scenario that could befall them on the way to or from school, from being waylaid by bullies to ending up on the receiving end of a direct meteorite hit.  

It’s also partly due to selfish reasons.  They still want me to walk them to school.  (And hold their hands, which I love.  However, my third grader now drops my hand at the corner just in case we meet up with any of his buddies). 

I guess at this point I have to decide whether or not I’m squashing their blossoming independence.  Letting them take their own steps in a controlled situation that I know they can handle is certainly the best way to get them started.  There are only a couple of weeks of school left this year.  I think I’ll enjoy their company to and from for just a bit longer, and let them walk on their own two feet next year. 

I just don’t know whether I’ll be laughing or crying.

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