Last week after our Cub Scout Den Meeting, one asked for a ride home. I said, “But you only live two blocks away and don’t have to cross a public street. Why don’t you walk?” Just then, the other boy’s mom who lives a house or two away from him arrived to drive both boys home. I walked out with her asking, “Why can’t they walk home?”
“In Brazil we never have our children walk. We think it’s dangerous to have them outside alone.”
I had all kinds of counters on my lips, but didn’t say anything else. After all, she has to feel safe about her son. But I Googled “Walk home from school” for more information. Here’s the essence: We have two sides. One side says that walking home is wonderful: It improves grades, provides life experience, gets kids outdoors and lets them have exercise. These people point out that not driving improves the environment and contributes to good health. They speak of the independence and self-confidence walking fosters.
On the other hand some parents drive to the school bus stop to wait for the bus to come and watch until the child enters and wait for him or her to exit to drive home. In the bus are surveillance cameras and an extra adult besides the driver. If a private car fetches children, the name of the family is on the dash board, and a monitor notifies the child within the school that his ride has arrived.
Parents who have wanted kids to walk home sometimes are referred to Social Services for child endangerment. Or they are reprimanded by neighbors or school authorities. Yet in the Seattle Washington area where so many refugees have witnessed violence and bomb-pocked streets, the children feel safe and love to walk home without fear of being shot or blown up!
Where is the line between negligence and paranoia? When we calm down and look at statistics, it is actually safer to walk than to drive anywhere. Yet since children do disappear and are mostly found because of “Amber Alerts” that even flash the license plate number on overhead signs on freeways, it’s rare that an abduction is successful. And that rarity is the rub. We mothers know the agony we would feel if a child disappeared and were abused and/or killed. I have felt it when a child has been missing and turns up after an hour of not knowing. That microscopic chance is what haunts parents.
So we arm them with advice not to talk to or go near strangers. We give them a code word so that they won’t go with anyone saying the parent sent for them unless they prove it with the code word. We take them everywhere and hover over them so that they become assured that this world is indeed a very dangerous place. They may be afraid to run to a neighbor for help unless there’s a signal card in the window. A child may decide that it’s much better to stay home with video games than to explore the neighborhood or go bike riding even with a friend.
Both sides make sense. The side that says, “I walked miles to school bus stop” as my mother did sees the good in asking kids to contribute to their education. The side that drives is careful and suspicious, guarding constantly against possible harm.
My kids walked to and from school. But that was a long time ago. I honestly don’t know what I would do for my children today. I’d want them to walk, but probably in a group of kids. Yet a group of kids can be mean and bully or “ditch” a child. Maybe, since I like exercise, I’d walk with them, bundling the baby in a back pack on a snowy day. That would be good for us all.
I do know that I would pray for them every day. As I continue to pray for grownup children now. I would let them out of my sight with the faith that they were just mine on loan from God. I could never keep them from doing foolish things out back in the alley as Gary’s nine year old brother did when he fell from a tree, got a compound fracture, and died of lockjaw over eighty-five years ago. Blair was an only child. His parents mourned and finally adopted an infant whom they named Gary. Of course they were overprotective, but seventy-eight years later, Gary is my husband and a great-grandfather. Somehow the plan for his life took him all this way through hair-raising incidents to now. The bottom line is faith in the Plan. How else could a parent cope? PMA