Now that school’s back in session – which, by the way, is how absolutely every parenting article that runs in September must begin, by law – but anyway, now that school’s back in session, you may be wondering: Dare my children walk there? Without me holding their hands and screaming at cars making left turns, I mean?
And the answer is probably yes. With some caveats.
The biggest caveat is that you first have to teach your children how to walk anyplace safely. That means teaching them about looking both ways, about walking “defensively,” and about the fact that they are (this may come as a shock to them) small. My kids are sick of my harping on this, but transportation geeks assure me I must make them keenly aware that they cannot trust cars to see THEM. THEY must look out for cars. It’s also good if they can walk with a friend.
Here in my burg, New York, New York, the city actually sends pedestrian safety instructors out to all the public schools in grades two or three. That means 3rd grade must be a pretty reasonable age for kids to start walking on their own, right?
It probably is. But, in truth, I didn’t let my younger son start walking solo till 4th grade (and his brother didn’t go it alone till 5th or 6th, because he was always with his baby brother and me). Third grade didn’t seem right. So you could say it’s just another one of those “go with your gut” issues.
But not totally. Because our guts are a little too timid these days.
In 1969, 42% of kids walked or biked to school. Today only 16% do. Some of that is because suburbs have spread out so much, the distance is too far, or the sidewalks don’t exist. But plenty is because what we once considered safe and normal we now consider risky and terrifying. Scroll down far enough in this blog and you’ll find a letter from a woman who can SEE HER SON’S SCHOOL OUT HER WINDOW and yet her neighbors yelled at her for not personally walking him over. And so many moms pick their kids up from the bus stop these days, it’s like they’re raising kobe beef.
Bottom line: If your child is 8 or so, he or she probably can walk to school without you, unless the route is far more treacherous than the one you trod so long ago. Remember? I’m talking about back when your mom, who loved you just as much as you love your kids, waved goodbye and was willing to let you go.