Friday, November 3, 2017

What I Have Learned While Walking my Son to School

The drop-off and pick-up line at my son's school is a winding nightmare of tired parents and car exhaust. I get that some don't live a comfortable walking distance and some are in a rush to or from work. For some, it may be physically impossible for them to walk their kids to and/or from school. But even those that live a reasonable walking distance to the school seem to drive instead. I pass the same two or three parents on foot every morning when I walk my son to school.

I've gained a lot from walking my son to school. Not only do we get to spend precious time together, but we are also moving our bodies. It sets a positive tone for our day. We talk about things he's interested in. We act silly We observe what's going on around us. He holds my hand, a precious act I know he may soon grow out of. And when we get to the school I can give him an unhurried goodbye because I don't have a line of cars behind me, impatiently waiting to drop their kids off. I think it's very important to set a positive tone for the day for our kids to help them succeed, and taking the time to walk him to school does just that.

I stop and get to know the crossing guards on the way back home. Now that my schedule has changed and I mostly work from home, having that adult contact is awesome. But even when I was walking back home to hop in the car and drive to work, I enjoyed slowing down and talking to these very important people keeping our children safe. I wouldn't want their job. People driving through stop signs, on their cell phones, just totally unaware of their surroundings, driving too fast. They put up with a lot.

Walking him to school allows me to observe our neighborhood in a way I don't have time for when I am driving. I can pick up on which kids are struggling at home. I get to see the delight in the kids walking home when the unharvested kumquat tree is full of ripe fruit. I can actually look into the eyes of other walking parents and give them a warm greeting. Occasionally we may get chased by the chihuahua that regularly escapes her backyard. She's an annoying little ankle biter. We get to really know our neighborhood.

I see a lot of newer neighborhoods building schools where it is just plain unsafe for kids to walk to school. The schools are built around buses and cars. This, to me, is sad. It's a missed opportunity for community and parent/child connections, for slowing down and really seeing your neighborhood.

If you have the opportunity, walk your kid to school. Slow down your mornings. Bond with your child. Get some exercise. Observe your neighborhood with fresh eyes. Not to mention the environmental impact that you will be making by not starting up your car.