Hit the Road, Jack

BY  |  Thursday, Aug 19, 2010 11:00am

Kids walking to school.jpgI’m kicking my kids to the curb come September. This year they are on their own to make it to school and back.
They’re old enough (I think). I’ve taught them to look both ways before crossing the street (although I’ve never actually seen them put that into practice). And, I can spit and practically hit the school from my front doorstep so I’m pretty confident they’ll make it.

We gave it a trial run at the end of last year. It was going wonderfully until I was informed by my son Vovie’s teacher that he was behaving like a lunatic on the way to school. So it was with a heavy heart that I called an end to the experiment.

But this is a whole new year and, hopefully, a whole new Vovie.

He is three months older and certainly that many months wiser. He is going to be a second grader next month and my daughter a fourth grader. If they can’t walk to school by themselves now, then when? I certainly have no intentions of schlepping my kids back and forth from school all the way up until they get their own driver’s license. I know plenty of parents do, but I’ve always found that puzzling.

When I moved to Verona, I chose the town partially because of its pedestrian nature. Unlike the sprawling suburb where I grew up, Verona was a town where the residents could walk everywhere: the park, the schools, the little downtown. Back then my husband and I owned a single car, and with both of us commuting to the city, it was really all we needed.

Now, we’re a two car two kid family, but I plan to give up driving my kids anywhere they can walk just as soon as they can walk it. Up until this year I have walked my kids the couple of blocks to school, waited for the morning bell and pick them up every single day. I’ve done it 1,440 times, and I’ve hated every minute of it. Not because I’m particularly lazy or anything. I like to walk. But because it would save me so much time if I didn’t have to walk them. I might be able to squeeze an extra 45 minutes out of my day, maybe more. Also, because I look like complete crap in the morning, and I don’t feel like fixing my hair and make-up just to return home to shower and do it all over again. I’m compelled to, however, because I refuse to let people see what I really look like. I must, at least, present the appearance of competence.

I considered moving down or out to any other Jersey town solely based on their bus system and the duration of time my children would spend in it. But we didn’t move, and I continued to believe I would walk my kids to school for perpetuity. Then one day it hit me. I don’t have to do this anymore. I had forgotten that kids actually grow up. The thought, though, may just as easily never have occurred to me. I would have kept on walking, despite my abject abhorrence of it, never realizing it was not necessary.
This year I’m giving it another shot. They might perish crossing the one street without a crossing guard on their way, but that’s a chance I have to take.

Now, when can they be latch key kids?

(Photo: Flickr/Pink Sherbet)

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And we can get this project completed in time for Montclair's sesquicentennial when we can stick a fork into historic preservation as a public policy.

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