The other day I sat chatting with my mom at her kitchen table, in the house I grew up in. The house is half a block from the elementary school, in the middle of a neighborhood with no busy streets. My mom was lamenting the fact that she sees so many neighbors driving their children to school.
I admit, I was also a bit floored. This seemed to me, even though I’m aware that fewer and fewer children walk to school anymore, beyond the pale. Lest I sound like my father, who insists he walked several miles to school in northern Minnesota even in winter…well, I’m going to go ahead and sound like him: I walked or rode my bike everywhere as a child, especially if it was under a mile. I remember as a teenager asking my dad for a ride to work at the local drugstore a mile away one early Sunday morning in January, when it was 15 or 20 degrees. His answer? “Put on a hat.”
It was never a question that I would walk to school. The few times I remember my mom driving me, it was pouring rain. I’m glad they raised me that way. I think it built independence, confidence, and self-reliance. Not to mention the benefit to my physical health, my mental health (the minutes my mind was allowed to wander as I walked and watched the world around me were precious), and the environment.
But if you’ve read much of this blog, you know I value difficult conversations and different points of view. I love gray areas. My friend, Heather, helped me see the gray in this.
A few days after the conversation with my mom, I said to Heather: “Can you believe they drive their children half a block to school?” I mean, obviously everyone saw the issue as I did.
But she said, “Well, yeah. I would.” Oh.
She amended that to say while she might not drive them half a block every day, she would at least walk them: “I’m a stay-at-home mom. I consider it my job to get them to school. I like that the last thing they see as they enter school is my smiling face, and the last thing they hear are words of encouragement from me.”
And as a former school social worker, she feels a lot of bullying takes place on the journey to school, whether walking or taking the bus. And, she admitted, she was concerned about strangers.
These are worthwhile reasons. I’d still let my children walk by themselves if I lived that close to school, but I like that she put me in my place a bit, and that the issue is more complex than it seemed to me at first. I’d never thought of the positive aspects.
I’d love to know what you think. Would you/do you/did you take your children to school? Why?