Now that summer has arrived in March, walking home from school is ideal, particularly to the mom who doesn’t feel like cutting her afternoon short to drive a mile to school in time to get a choice parking spot (because if you get there too close to dismissal, you won’t get much closer than your driveway).
It’s not just that. It’s about the kids – isn’t it always?
The weather is beautiful and the plethora of electronic toys at their disposal keeps them inside more than they should be. Walking home is good exercise; it gets the young, itouch-addicted outside; it’s something kids can do with their friends; and it gives them a chance to decompress after school. Plus, there’s all that research about exercise releasing endorphins and reducing stress. So, walking makes for happiness.
Well, to some.
Most of the time, Red and Lashes are more than happy to walk. I’ve passed them in my car, pulled over to offer a ride home and been refused. Blue, though, not so much. That child will move hell and high water (but not his own body) to avoid walking home. He takes the news that “you’re walking today” better than he did in the beginning…we’re down to a once in a Blue moon, “are you serious?” Yes, I’m often serious when it comes to cutting-edge demands like walking home on a sunny Tuesday. He argues that his backpack is heavy and it is – I’ll give him that - but there are many, many children with equally heavy backpacks high tailing it on foot, and they look perfectly happy texting as they walk.
Recently, Blue parked himself on a sidewalk and waited a good fifteen minutes for me to come get him rather than walk the remaining one-third of the way home. It’s mysterious because when Blue visits any of his four grandparents who live in New York City, he walks for miles – uptown, downtown – to Montauk if you’d let him. Stamina for days.
Then, there’s Dimples, who’s recently expressed interest in walking home from school with Curls, but I’m afraid to say yes because there’s a major street to cross. This is a child who moans and groans when he has to walk to the bathroom, but has very realistic (in his mind, God bless him) aspirations to play for the NBA (we won’t mention that he has certain traits in common with his 5’2” mother). I try to explain to him that elite athletes push themselves very hard; they walk places. He assures me that he’ll be fine in the pros, but for now, walking is irrelevant. There’s just so much I don’t understand, as I’m often reminded.
Curls used to like to walk to school with G – no, wait – he liked to walk part of the way to school. At some point, when he was within sight of kids he knows, he’d end the mother-son walk and continue on his own.
I feel G’s pain; while Dimples will hold me close for an hour on his way to sleep, he won’t come within five feet of me on his way to school. It’s all so ironic. With my busy life, I’d kill for a chance to take a walk. When I finally carve out time to do it, my legs, my heart and my mind feel fantastic, not to mention that the risk of falling, banging my skull and ending up in the ER at Overlook is refreshingly low.
When I was young, I did a March of Dimes walk-a-thon. I think I walked something like 23 miles to raise money for charity. I remember blistered feet, sore muscles and exhaustion, but I’m not pushing anything quite this extreme on my kids. I bet if I slapped an odometer on them for the hours they spend shooting hoops in the driveway, we’d find that they’re walking for miles.
It’s not quite a walk in the park, but I guess, ultimately, they’re getting a move on.
Liz Kingsley lives in Westfield with her girlfriend and their five children. During the day, she teaches Special Education and Basic Skills at a local elementary school, writes poetry and columns about her family, and directs The Writers Studio. At night, she collapses from exhaustion.
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