Childrearing

If I Walked Uphill Both Ways to School, Can’t My Kid Walk Four Blocks?

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Yes, I live four blocks away. Yes, I can hear the kids playing at recesses from my front yard. So can all of the other moms in the neighboring streets, and yet there we all are, rushing to get to pick-up at our designated times. For those keeping track at home, I have to do drop off / pick up three times a day, because we have half day kindergarten.  My baby rarely naps- no wonder he doesn’t sleep. Every time I wake my toddler up, I think that this is crazy and my oldest is responsible and safety minded enough to make the “long” journey without me.  But then someone robs our CVS (I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia), or I dwell on the social pressure, and I put it off for a month, a season or a year.  She’s confident and brave; I am the one who is unsure.

And I am not alone.  If you Google “When can my child walk to school alone?” there are 48 million results.  The first page of results varies from a very direct recommendation of 10 years old and fifth grade from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to a score of much more open ended recommendations that come down to: know your child and know your neighborhood.  Though even then, 10 continues to pop up as the magic number to cross the street alone.

The most helpful advice I found came from excerpts of Gavin de Becker‘s book, Protecting the Gift. In it, he lists 12 questions to ask your children when determining if they are mature enough to handle being alone in your neighborhood or home. They involve assessing your child’s ability to honor their feelings when someone or some situation makes them uncomfortable. It also encourages some “real talk” with your kid about whether they know that it’s ok to defy adults, especially those trying to lead them away.  Furthermore, your child should be able to verbalize that if they feel they are in danger, screaming and striking out is ok, and they should know you would support their actions that they made while afraid. (The list in its entirety is here.) The list may not be something you are excited to talk to your child about, but it encourages a dialog about safety in a way that is more helpful than the “Danger everywhere!” conversations of my youth.

So according to this list, we are almost there. I think a few conversations with her, paired with a few conversations with neighborhood moms about possibly putting together a group of kids to walk together would do a lot to put my mind at ease. In the meantime, I will keep waking up babies and chasing kindergartners down the street every afternoon at 3:30 under the guise that I have to. But really, it’s because I am still a little afraid to let go.

You can reach this post’s author, Jessica Nayor, on twitter.

(Image: getty)

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