Saturday, May 06, 2006

Walking With Kids

This article reminded me of What Life Was Like when I was growing up. Two car families were actually rare in the late-1950's/early-1960's, so it wasn't unusual to see moms pushing strollers to pick up a few items from the corner store. Later on, as we kids got older, it was almost a rite of passage to be entrusted with a dollar or two to go to the store to pick up bread, milk, and a penny candy or two as a reward.

Of course, a half gallon of milk and a loaf of bread in a paper sack got pretty heavy on the way home!

Obesity is a problem for some members of my family. Eating healthy and increasing physical activity has become almost a Quest for Hubs and me. This year, I've been encouraging DD#2 to walk home from school, a distance of two miles, rather than taking the bus. Hubs fixed the flat on her bike, she plays basketball, and her school has a pretty intense PE program. DS#2 walks to and from high school, about a mile each way. His complaint is that he has PE last period--and it's all uphill to our house!

When I tell people that DD#2 walks home by herself or rides the bus, they are shocked. "Aren't you afraid?" they ask me. Afraid that she might be harassed or hurt or assaulted. Afraid she might be snatched or lost.

But if I don't let her walk home or ride the bus now, in the relative safety of our small suburban town, what is she going to do when she leaves home? She wants to go to Cal and Berkeley is a much rougher city than where we live now.

The article also talks about the lack of "free play" time most kids have now. Where we spent lots of time "hanging out" at the local school field, making up games and the rules, playing "army" in the jungles of our suburban backyards, or even just chewing on sourgrass watching the clouds float by, many of today's kids are overscheduled. They're not just taking dance classes--they're in competition. They don't just kick a ball around, they play soccer. They don't have "pick up" games of baseball, with the older kids teaching the younger ones, they're on teams with uniforms and spend a lot of time on the bench. (And many of them listen to adults yelling loudly and angrily at each other, with an occasional fistfight thrown in.)

Taking a walk, around the block or to the park, allows parents and children to slow down and take a look at the world around them. They can watch the seasons change by looking at the neighbors' yards. They can see the clouds and the shadows cast. In our neighborhood, you can look at turkey vultures, hawks, squirrels, redwinged blackbirds, butterflies, and bumblebees. We've even surprised some wild rabbits living in the brush of the local park.

With the rainy season behind us (I hope!), the end of school and homework, and the longer daylight of summer, I'm hoping to get in more after-dinner walks. The dog could use some walking, too!