I can’t tell you the number of times my dad repeated the stories of how he and his siblings were forced to walk to and from school for several miles when he was a kid, that’s just what they did back then. I’ve heard about the blinding blizzards when there were no tracks to follow. They relied on the familiar surroundings to find their way to the schoolyard, somehow always seeming to arrive before the first morning bell rang.
I’d swear that each time the stories have been told by my father, the length of the walk becomes longer and longer … and the snow deeper and deeper. It always makes me laugh, questioning the truth of his “walking to school” tales.
Honestly, I think he takes joy in the fact that I have never asked one of his siblings if he’s telling the truth or not! Knowing his brothers and sisters, they’ll back him up 100% and even add some additional details to these walking stories from the past.
And that is really what they’ve become; walking stories of the past. It’s sad really. Walking to school was just part of the day, it was fun and part of the daily routine. Kids had a chance to talk to each other or sing silly songs if they wanted to. Children had the chance to release some energy, take in some fresh air and even play simple games like kicking small stones the farthest distance or “stepping on every crack to break their mother’s back”! You know exactly what I’m talking about don’t you? And what were they also doing while these things were going on? Exercising! That’s probably why when I look at the pictures from these days of the past, all the kids seemed to be thin and trim, no obesity or weight issues – surely different than today’s world.
Times sure have changed haven’t they? Are we losing the simple art of walking to and from school? Will these walking stories from the past remain just that, or can they be brought back to the present so that our kids can tell stories themselves someday created by their own walking experiences to school, adding some exciting details of their own.
What scares me is that today’s children aren’t getting half as much exercise as my dad’s generation. We have to face facts that walking – no matter whether it’s to a school, library, park, beach, community center, shopping center, restaurant, market – is good for everyone, both young and old. It helps to keep us and our children healthier and slimmer.
It also allows children to feel more acquainted with their home territory. I read that children who get driven everywhere don’t really even know where they are going and are often unfamiliar with their environment.
Think about that for a minute. Can you imagine what it feels like to be driven everywhere, strapped in and sitting continuously in a vehicle instead of walking to school or to a local park? You would feel so “unconnected.” I can tell you right now that my dad’s entire family would have despised it. The same goes for me.
I walked with my friends everywhere was I was a youngster. I loved walking to my elementary school, even during the summertime, just so we could play on the playground equipment. Those were the good times and great memories! Oh, the walking stories I tell my children are just about as fun as the ones my dad tells, but mine are factual (sorry dad, but you know I’m right!)
And for those of you who are concerned about your child’s safety, which could be the determining factor for not allowing your children to walk to school, let me share something with you. Statistically a child is more at risk for EACH MILE HE (SHE) IS DRIVEN that he is for each mile he walks. I bet you never knew that! Don’t feel bad, neither did I – but I’m glad I know it now!
So let’s do our part to allow our children to have walking stories from their past to tell their kids. Admit it, stories told about multiple rides to school in the family car just are NOT the same!
Photo courtesy of Adrienne Johnson SF