November 8 12

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.

It’s time.

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.

  1. Love this! We used to live in walking distance of my boys’ school but no longer. I could watch them walk. You are wonderful to let them walk themselves in the morning. love it!

    Comment by Rhea on November 8, 2012
  2. I have recently started letting my 9 year old (grade 5) son walk to and from school by himself. He can’t walk with his sister because he would probably lose her on purpose. We are 4 blocks from school. There are a few parents I know who do this, but mostly they are still walking them in grade 6…at some point they have to learn to walk 4 blocks and maybe even cross a street by themselves! It is so hard to let go, but has to be done!

    Comment by Kathy on November 8, 2012
  3. I love this! This has been the best thing about moving closer to my kids’ school. I love that they get to experience a bit of what I had growing up. And I know they’ll be stronger for having the independence and the responsibility, especially my oldest. Her teacher has this saying: “Responsibility is the ultimate freedom.” I totally get that, and I think she does too.

    Comment by Tamara on November 8, 2012
  4. Sigh. I love this so, so much.

    Comment by ali on November 8, 2012
  5. People think I’m insane for this, but I’ve been letting my oldest walk – by herself – since Grade Two. Once her younger sister and brother started school, she walked them, too. A) I want them to have some freedom, and learn to do things for themselves; B) School ends at an annoyingly early time, and it interrupts their youngest brother’s naps if I have to go. It works for us, and they’re still alive, four years later!

    Comment by Cynthia on November 8, 2012
  6. I used to walk to and from school too. It was between grade 2 and 5, altough I’m sure I didn’t walk alone in grade 2, as the school was not visible from my house. But I remember the walks, and the freedom. And being attacked by a dog, and having a mean boy throw my umbrella over the fence of a house, and I remember walks with my best friends and making up songs. I am a helicopter mom and the school my boys go to is not walking distance, unless we were like, super athletic family and did the 20 minute walk every day. I know they can bike it in the warmer months, so when they’re older, I’m sure they’ll do that. Yeah, things have changed since we were younger, but kids sure do still need this freedom. How nice that you’re able to see them walking to the school that is so close to you, though.. and all together. So, so nice.
    Also, morning hell happens in my house, too. One kid panicks about being late every day, the other kid could care less! I also make differnet breakfasts and lunch and snacks. And I have to help them dress and brush their teeth and make sure their bags are packed… oh, the joy!

    Comment by Loukia on November 8, 2012
  7. you’re a helicopter mom? I never knew.

    Hahaha. 🙂

    Comment by ali on November 8, 2012
  8. That is awesome. They probably don’t realize how awesome it is either. Ahhhh, simpler times when you didn’t HAVE to worry. Shit, I walked to and from school as far back as I can remember. And my mom was working so she wasn’t even home when we left.

    Comment by Kristabella on November 8, 2012
  9. Totally not. Emily thinks it’s a pain in the ass, because she has to walk Isabella ALL THE WAY to her door.

    Comment by ali on November 8, 2012
  10. We were doing this. First year ever, since i pulled mine out of a charter and put them in our neighborhood school. They were walking with a friend each day. Then Jessica Ridgeway was kidnapped walking to school. I know it’s an isolated incident. But…it’s in my community. I just can’t handle it. Plus, I just moved about two miles away from their school, so now I’m driving them again.

    I liked it. Them walking. It felt like a good step.

    Comment by Issa on November 8, 2012
  11. I totally get that. If something happened much too close to home, I’d have a much harder time with it.

    Comment by ali on November 8, 2012
  12. If we lived in walking distance (it’s a 10-minute drive to my girls’ school), I’d definitely make them walk together. As it is, Kaylie picks Liliana up from her classroom (a parent or sibling has to get the Kindergarten students from their class) and they meet me at our meeting spot that is down the street from their school so that I don’t have to drive in front of their school so that I am a much nicer person to be around (school zones make me stabby). A bit of responsibility is good for ’em. 🙂

    Things have changed a lot, though. When I was in Kindergarten, my friend and I walked to school together (took us about 15 minutes, was about a km away). There’s no way I’d let two five-year-olds walk that far alone. Times, they are a changin’.

    Comment by Mrs. Wilson on November 8, 2012
  13. Also, I make Kaylie make her and Liliana’s lunches. That way they have what they want to eat AND I don’t have to do it.

    Delegating, FTW!

    Comment by Mrs. Wilson on November 8, 2012
  14. SMART.

    but in our house, if I waited for my children to make their own lunches, they’d likely starve.

    Comment by ali on November 8, 2012
  15. Kaylie HATES being late. So I have that going for me. At the moment.

    Comment by Mrs. Wilson on November 8, 2012
  16. I make them make their own lunches, but we do it the night before. If they’re taking something hot in the thermos, they have to have everything else ready the night before. We’d go insane making lunches in the morning.

    Comment by Cynthia on November 8, 2012
  17. Well, I’m old. But my kids walked alone from the aged of six and eight, with neighbour kids. The school was about six blocks away and they went in a little posse, from kindergarten to grade six. Not a parent in sight, though all of us sending our own out to join the crew as they approached our spot on the route. It was great. THen our kids took city buses – two of them – with one friend, when they were eleven. I know, sounds crazy. But they were independent and resourceful, proud, and have continued to be adventurous and independent. I hope this goes as well for you as it did for us.

    Comment by Tweepwife on November 8, 2012
  18. I think it’s awesome that you had a GROUP of moms, neighbors etc. who all did it TOGETHER…no judging, but encouraging. It makes these kinds of decisions way easier to make.

    Comment by ali on November 8, 2012
  19. By the time I was in 5th grade, I was taking the subway home from school. And considering that my grade school was across the road from a strip club, amongst other savoury characters in the area, I’m amazed now that my mother allowed that. But it was a different time. That’s for sure.

    Comment by Chantal on November 8, 2012
  20. last year we had 3 families walking the 1KM to and from school every day – so only one parent had to do it (with 6 kids) — was fantastic! Then one family moved so now one parent walks 4 kids, grades 1 and 3.

    We’re talking about letting them walk themselves after March Break, once the snowbanks are gone.

    Also, they carry their own backpacks. Always have — even in SK. I’m not a packhorse.

    And lunches? I say it every time parents complain about making lunches. My kids eat the same thing, every day, for a week. On the weekends I ask “what do you want to eat this week at school?” and they can choose something else, but they usually don’t. They get what’s in their lunch, and they eat it at school, or they eat it after school, but that’s it until supper (unless they finish it all and need more).

    They might not like it at first, but they won’t starve for long…

    Comment by suze on November 9, 2012
  21. I totally, totally get what you are saying re: lunches and I’m glad that this works for you, but for me, I’m a battle picker, and I really just want my children to eat *something* at school. So, while there are places as a parent that I stand my ground, lunches just isn’t one of them.

    My kids would just NOT eat. And then they’d make me crazy between 3:15 and dinnertime, which is not what I want to be doing during my work day. Heh.

    Comment by ali on November 9, 2012
  22. Good for you. All the stuff that stresses you out in the morning could be done the night before by them, packing backpacks, clothes laid out, and they could pack their own lunch with a little supervision. These things make our mornings so much smoother!

    Comment by Kami on November 9, 2012
  23. I was totally going to say what lots of others said. A little more time spent in the evening before bedtime making sure backpacks are filled with the right stuff, outfits laid out, water bottles next to the fridge ready to be filled, lunches made or prepped, will do wonders for the next morning! I know it’s tough- I just want to sit on the couch and BE DONE in the evening, but it helps so, so, sosososo much.

    I think that kids can handle a lot more responsibility than we give them credit for. For example if Emily couldn’t find her shirt because it wasn’t in her hamper or the laundry room, due to fault of her own, then too bad. You don’t get to wear it. Or if you pick something out for lunch and then decide to change your mind RIGHT before we leave the house, TOO BAD. But that’s how I run my house! To each their own. 🙂

    Comment by Chris on November 12, 2012
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