A couple of weeks ago, Soraya and Mark moved their family of five to a bedroom community in the foothills of Los Angeles. Blessed with an outstanding school district, it’s the kind of town that even their westside friends have to admit is idyllic for raising a family. Their kids meanwhile are excited to be in walking distance to some of their favorite haunts, like Rita’s Italian Ice and Georgee’s Pizza, as well as some of their closest friends’ homes. Lucky for them, they also live within walking distance to their elementary school, which means Soraya and Mark can escort them to and fro on foot, something our own parents did with us when we were young.
If only doing that were as easy as it sounds. On Day One, Soraya and Mark set off with their three kids in tow, backpacks loaded (including Siena’s rolling backpack, a “must” for a sixth grader), expecting to share an idyllic stroll. What they got instead was a lesson in obstacle management. Their usually sporty son, Hayden, turned out to be the biggest complainer of the day, immediately asking why they had to walk to school when they could drive. Their kindergartner, Lila, almost immediately got a cramp in her side and wanted to stop walking. Only their eldest, Siena, stayed positive, trying to keep her family moving so that she wouldn’t be late for class.
How had this lovely idea of walking to school as a family turned into one big grumble-fest? Soraya and Mark realized their kids weren’t conditioned to appreciate it, that they’d have to de- program their kids’ everything-must-be-immediately-gratifying outlooks on life. They decided the family would continue walking to school in the mornings. Pickups (which, we should mention happen to occur at three different times each day) would be by car until the weather cooled off a bit.
Day Two went a little better. The group arrived at school without grumblings, save a few rocks in Lila’s shoes.
We realize that walking to school isn’t possible for lots of families living in Los Angeles, but the lessons we learned in attempting it can be applied to many parallel situations. Here are a few examples:
- Take a “nature” walk in your neighborhood with your kids, bringing along bags to collect pinecones, acorns, or leaves then let them create from their natural treasures upon returning home.
- Walk to a local breakfast joint on a weekend morning.
- If you are in a neighborhood that is conducive to walking to school, start a “walking school bus” with other families that live along your route, picking up kids at designated points along the way.
Since that first day walking to school, Soraya admits there have been other ups and downs, but what she and Mark have found is that most of the time the kids enjoy the experience. And most mornings, it’s not a good walk spoiled.
With seven children ranging in age from ten months to seventeen years between them, sisters and bloggers Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Soraya Delawari Dancsecs are experts at parenting in L.A. They take a break from PTA board meetings, cooking, and producing films to blog at CityThink each Thursday.