Monday, December 5, 2011

The Walking Minority

When we moved to a new city last year, we were down to the wire deciding between 2 different houses in 2 neighborhoods in the same city, just about 2 miles apart, but in different school districts. We loved both houses, and we loved both neighborhoods, but ultimately it came down to the location of the elementary school as the deciding factor. For one house, the elementary school was about 8 miles away and across a busy highway. For the other house, the elementary school was inside the neighborhood within walking distance. In the end, we chose the house with the nearby elementary school.

And I am so glad we did! Because we live 1/2 mile from the school and I like to walk my oldest son to and from school. It's a mile round trip, X 2 including an afternoon pickup trip, which is 2 miles a day and 10 miles a week for me.

According to this article, Dallas ranks as the 5th city in the nation in regards to heart disease and obesity rates. Only 7% of trips are done by walking or biking. That statistic is actually higher than I would have thought. This area is not very friendly to walking or mass transit. A lot of the roads out here don't even have sidewalks on them. And I could much more easily find a bus or subway to take in New York City or any European city than I could out here. So I get why people don't walk much here.

My son seems to enjoy walking in the mornings. I'm usually able to leave my 2 younger kids home with my husband for the morning walk, so it's just the 2 of us. If he's in the mood, we practice his spelling words and his addition tables during the walk. If it's cold enough that he can see his breath outside, or if it's sprinkling just a tiny bit and he gets to take his Cars umbrella, he is totally thrilled.

He's usually not as thrilled for the afternoon walk home. His younger brother and sister are always along, and there's usually bickering. Or fighting. Or playing and laughing. Most of the time all of those things combined within one afternoon walk home.

My son still asks me sometimes why we have to walk. And I tell him we don't HAVE to. But that we do it because it's a healthy thing to do. Because it's a good form of exercise. And it's better for the environment.

I have gotten some looks and comments from other parents. A few weeks ago, on one of the first days when the temperatures were in the 40s, someone I know in our neighborhood pulled over while we were walking to school and asked if we were ok and if we needed a ride. I think she thought my car broke down or something. And while it was relatively cold out (I say relatively cold because in many areas the 40s is not considered very cold), we were both sufficiently bundled up and I was even warm and sweaty during the walk.

My younger son stopped riding in a stroller last year, shortly after his little sister was born. Totally his choice. And I have to say that he does remarkably well on the 1-mile round-trip every day in the afternoon. And as a 3-year-old on vacation in California earlier this year, he did a great job walking around the zoos and theme parks without tiring out. (We actually brought a double stroller with us, but he declined and insisted on walking--with his own map).

As much as I love the walking, I have my self-imposed limits. I won't make my son walk if it's pouring down rain or snow, or if the temperatures are too extreme (which for me is over 100 degrees for the walk home). So I'm not a total meanie.

We're not the only school walkers in the neighborhood. There's definitely more car riders than walkers, but there are other walkers. And I enjoy chatting with some of the parents before the afternoon bell rings. So we will keep on walking.

My son wants to start riding his bike to school. I think he's almost ready. And then I'll have another in school, and we'll have a walker and a bike rider.

Do you walk your kids to school? Does your neighborhood have a large percentage of walkers? I'm curious to know how this differs by area.

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