Sunday, October 11, 2009

Walk the Walk

NB: Somehow this got resaved as a draft, then reposted here, even though I originally posted it in September. Oh well. Technology burp. 

Did anyone else read this article? It is about how many parents won't allow their children to walk to school (or other places), even when the walk is a block or two. Parents are too afraid that their children will be abducted. Included in the article is a bit about a mom who let her 10 year old son walk a mile to soccer practice. Not only did several people call 911 to report a child walking alone, but the officer who found the kid drove him to the park (before chewing out the mom). I'm knocked out that (a) multiple people found the sight of a kid walking alone worrisome enough to report it to police, and (b) they called 911, the emergency number. The kid was 10, not 4.

The article upset me for a couple of reasons. To begin with, it busts into the fantasy I have had since we moved to this house that my children will get to walk themselves to school. We live 5 blocks from our local elementary. Of course I will be walking Ada to kindergarten, but will I be expected to walk her to and from school until she graduates from 8th grade? When Ian and Mira are ready for kindergarten Ada will be entering 4th grade. At what point can she escort them without me along for the stroll? Why couldn't a 4th grader walk her younger siblings to school?

The other thing that really bugs me is that refusing to let kids walk to local schools is an environmental nightmare. The article may have picked out really extreme cases to make a point about modern, fear-based parenting, but wow. A mom let her kid walk the five houses to a friend's place, only to have the kid driven home at the end of the play-date. Really? Driven? The host mom was what - too busy? Too lazy? to walk the length of five houses?


  1. I read that article too. I found it appalling that someone would call 911 to report a 10 yr old walking without an adult.

    I live in a walking town. We walk or bike everywhere. Many families here do, though some think we're nuts. My daughter is in elementary school, so I currently walk her to the bus stop or school (as town requires). School is about 1 mile from here, across major roadways with alot of traffic (hence busing). While she is at that school, on the days that we walk (home only), I will probably continue to meet her at school. However, if she is taking the bus, once she is 9 yrs old the town does not require me to walk her to the stop and I am comfortable with this.

    Once she is in middle school, I doubt she would want me to walk her to the bus, too uncool. That's OK.

    I think people have gotten so used to driving their kids everywhere (because they are overscheduled and pressed for time) that actually seeing a child walking (or biking) somewhere is so rare that they find it alarming.

  2. In Zurich, they have the kindergartners walking/taking the train to school by themselves. I guess they wear brightly colored vests to identify them and it's all good. America, as my Indonesian missionary sister pointed out to me, is weird in that it's so worried about safety when it is a relatively safe country.

    We have no sidewalks around here, which pisses me off, b/c I'd like to have my kids walk to school.

  3. I ask myself about this. I kind of lost it a little this weekend when dudelet, on his new bike, soared off along a path and vanished. I ran after him - he wasn't in sight. I ran as far as the next bend. He waiting at a set of traffic lights. In the meantime, my initial 'Do what you're old' anger had been replaced with one focusing on wholly irrational, non-statistically valid fear which I'm aware is 'produced' by my media environment rather than anything else.

  4. I feel like it's all a bunch of hysteria, and yet I'll still hesitate to let my daughter walk the mile to kindergarten. it's effective hysteria.

  5. Statistically, the greatest danger a child faces is being riding in a car, a fact that somehow doesn't seem to resonate with the public like child abduction does. Otherwise, we'd be hearing more of a clamor for better places to walk and schools located in more walking and cycling friendly locations.