When our dear nonlinear ones
were here from the United States of America last month they asked me "What are the flashing green lights for?" I explained that is our great Canadian universal socialized street crossing scheme. The scheme that says, hey I have the right to cross the street at many many many intersections. And, I expect the government to help me do it!
I was driving to work today. Shame. Shame. The back route I usually enjoy has been less enjoyable since school got back in. Today around the corner near the high school it was entirely clogged. Rainy and a bit dark near eight there were cars everywhere. Slow, silly cars.
When I was a kid no one drove to school. Before the age of 16 anyway, then it was the ultimate coolness. My parents lived in the house I grew up in for a long time and I remember when the phenomenon hit my old street (a block and a half from my elementary school); the street would clog up with cars. Lots and lots of cars. Then fancy signs about how/where/when to stop -- and not stop. I thought it was weird, not for the logical environmental reasons, but more because I thought schools were put close to people so they could walk there. I love right now that my kids can walk to day care and that I get a walk around the block myself is a mental/physical health bonus, too.
Today in my
conscious mode of analysis of the drive to school culture wondered what it
will take for my kids to walk to school. I have often wanted to wander the edges of what I consider to be a very expensive form of helicopter parenting; the safety conscious stuff. Count me keen to avoid the mode where I had to go to the 'safety store' to childproof A LOT. The busy inventories that, while they may suit others, would land me in the loony bin should I engage even a bit with that sort of worry. The hypoallergenic everything, the super-safe toys and overall pursuit of purity that raises my suspicion. I was shocked as a parent to discover one of the biggest brands is something called SafetyFirst. I felt like I'd been dropped into some junior Coast Guard brigade with poop! How much of it is about actual risk and how much is just a sales job for already overly freaked out parents? Of which I am one. I always enjoyed the "look offspring X really just loves poking around with a stick", or "offsprings y-z, don't they just love to wash dishes". It is liberating and practical and cheap and more....!
But, today, I looked at all those cars this morning and I got it. I realized that I could be one of them. I hope it's just a matter of perspective and conditioning. Maybe it is just my current separation anxiety, which is considerable, but looking at all those cars I sort of thought, yeah. I guess I should get off my high horse and admit driving the kids might be the way to:
1.) see my kid until the very last minute.
2.) know they are safely at school.
3.) deliver them to a school that we think is the absolute best option for them.
I hope that I don't drive the kids to school. From the get go I want school, like everything they do, to be a permissive developmental bargain
. You will conform to this institution in exchange for an additional measure of independence, discernable in the following ways.... I will make you go to school but I will at least trust you to walk the six blocks to get there. I will trust you to learn the right routes and to obey crossing signs. I will teach you to respect yourself and begin to protect yourself from the earliest possible age. I will support you as a member of this community to achieve the degrees of safety you deserve.
We have of late read the excellent book LonPoPo**. My daughter asked me today, at the age of four, if I would leave her at home with the door latched while I went to pick up her brother from childcare, a half a block away. The trip would take me 5 minutes or less. I said no, but I would think about it. I felt she asked me because she wanted to show me she knows a new risk and can keep herself safe, alone. She wanted to prove it. I believe she feels the liberty because she knows the danger. (Or maybe she just wanted to totally act out and role play the risk [highly likely] at the moment, so... no we won't leave you at home Princess Smartypants!)
Where do you stand on these dangers? Is there a definite right age for your children to be alone, apart from you as a parent? Do you think safety is an important factor in your decision to drive -- or not to drive -- your child to school? October is walk to school
month. Tell me, will/do, your child(ren) walk to school?
** Young, Ed. Lon Po Po
: a Red-Riding Hood Story from China. Scholastic, 1990.Dedication: "To all the wolves of the world for lending their good name as a tangible symbol for our darkness."
Labels: danger, walk the walk