It’s International Walk to School Day. Walking to school with your kids is a great way to reduce traffic congestion, keep the family active, and give your kids a sense of independence. J&J mom Jodie found that walking to school has an even more important benefit – uninterrupted time with her daughter.
When we moved to our new home a year and a half ago, one of the biggest draws to the neighborhood was the proximity to the elementary school. A short 15 minute walk through the neighborhood, up the hill, around the corner and across the street seemed like an adventure to our kids. They loved the idea of walking (or biking) to school. They didn’t get to walk to their old school, and couldn’t wait for the new school year to start to try it out.
Now, nearly every morning (except on those brutally cold winter days), I have the pleasure of walking my daughter, Rose, a first grader, to school. My fourth grade son, Ben, has his “bike license” ,so he bikes ahead once we send him off with a kiss goodbye and good wishes for a great day. That leaves me alone with Rose, where we get15 uninterrupted minutes of walking, talking, sharing ideas, asking questions, learning about each other and holding hands.
Our conversations run the gamut. She has spent the entire walk talking to me about why she wishes she were the oldest child instead of Ben. We have pondered the endless choices of Halloween costumes, whether or not that day’s school lunch will be delicious, what we plan to do over the coming weekend or how many times the boys in her class get told to sit down.
We have discussed religion, death, marriage, first loves, the importance of being kind and if it’s actually cooler to wear your backpack on one shoulder versus two. We point out the squirrels walking along the telephone wires, the rabbit in the neighbor’s yard, the beautiful red leaves falling from the big oak tree or the flowers blooming from under the melting snow.
And every morning, when I’m walking home from school after dropping off Rose (and checking to be sure Ben’s bike is on the bike rack), I think about how lucky I am to do this with her every morning. I cherish the time with her and getting to hear all the amazing thoughts in her little head and helping to shape her ever so slightly with each walk we take.
I realize these walks will come to an end likely in a few years, either when she gets her bike license or she decides that walking to school with her mom isn’t as cool as walking with her friends. But for now, I think of each morning as a gift, and I treasure holding her little pink nail polished fingers in mine and talking about anything and everything on her mind.
Walking your kids to school can also be a great time to teach kids how to be safe as pedestrians. Check out these safety tips from our partner, Safe Kids Worldwide. You can also watch their video with kids from around the world talking about why having a safe place to walk is so important.
Jodie Wertheim is Director of External Communications at McNeil Consumer Healthcare. She lives outside of Boston with her husband, David, and is the mom of Ben and Rose who keep her busy, laughing and walking every day.