When we bought our house my children attended a private school that was close-enough. It most certainly was not in walking distance, but was only about a ten-minute drive. When I worked downtown, they took the bus. It was not ideal (for them, mostly)—they had to get up super early and they didn’t get home until after 5pm. When I worked from home, I drove them to and from school. It was not ideal (for me, mostly) as I had to be in the carpool line at about 3:30pm for their 4 o’clock dismissal to have any hope of getting out of the parking before 4:30. So, picking up from school? An hour of my time, on a good day.
This year, the kids switched to a new school—a school I can see when I stand on my front porch.
Perfect, I thought. Not only would I never have to brave the school parking lot olympics again, but I would be able to walk my kids to school every day and pick them up from school every day. It would be just like the movies! It would be just like those paparazzi shots of Jennifer Garner walking hand-in-hand with her backpacked daughter! My kids would hold my hands and tell me story after story about their friends and teachers and recesses.
The reality is a slightly off-center version of my visions. Actually, a mostly better version. Emily walks home with her friend who lives down the street—about 30 steps ahead of us. Josh walks home with his friend who lives down the street—about 15 steps ahead of us. Isabella walks beside me while I hold her backpack and lunch box because she’s soooo tired and couldn’t possibly carry them allllll the way home.
I’ll be honest, despite the extra polka-dotted load load I’m required to carry on behalf of my second grader, it’s my favorite part of the day.
The morning walk to school, however, is simply NOT MY FAVORITE.
I don’t think it’s anyone’s favorite, honestly.
Our mornings are a bit of a nightmare these days. It takes me too many minutes to wake all three kids up—gone are the days where they are up before I am. It takes me too many minutes to make their lunches—nobody every likes anything I want to send them. (Since when do all three kids hate granola bars?) I have to make sure three sets of teeth are brushed, three mops of hair are brushed. I have to search the house for the specific white tank top that Emily absolutely needs to have. I have to sign the permission slip that Isabella forgot about. I have to figure out where Joshua’s library books is hiding. I have to make sure all three backpacks are ready to go, all three water bottles are washed and filled with the fridge water, all three kids are breakfasted (three different breakfasts, of course), jacketed, scarved, gloved.
(You’re sweating just thinking about it, right?)
And then we make it out the door—barely.
I decided, recently, that it is time for my 6th grader, my 5th grader, and my 2nd grader to walk to school all on their very own.
My reasoning was two-fold.
First, after the morning chaosslashhell, I really need the mental and physical break from them. Mornings are not good for my sanity. I need to be able to pour my mug of coffee and sit down at my computer and actually, you know, DO MY JOB. I suspect, too, that they really need the mental break from screamyMama.
Second, and way more importantly, I want them to have this FOR THEM.
I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but times have changed.
Gone are the days that kids are free to, just, be kids. They can’t bike on their own, they can’t go to the park on their own, they can’t even go to the mailbox on their own. The world is a different place, definitely, but we, as parents, are different too. We are much more cautious, much more hesitant to let our kids have freedoms.
I want my kids to have some freedoms; I need them to have some freedoms.
So, in the mornings, I stand on my front porch in my snowman flannel pajama pants, hold my giant cup of coffee in my hands, and watch my three children walk to school on their own. I watch them take ownership over something that is just theirs—100% theirs.
And as I watch them walk further and further away from me, I both smile and heavily sigh. I smile because it’s so great to see—the three of them, walking side-by-side, talking to each other. I sigh, though, because I know—with each and every step they take away from me—that my little babies are growing up.