« Simply Advent | Main | Alces alces gigas »

Walking to School

Toby’s school recently sent out a survey to parents asking for info about their practices and opinions regarding students’ walking to and from school. This reminded me of a conversation that Stephanie and I had during the week or two prior to Jacob starting kindergarten. 

We asked ourselves under what circumstances we would let Jacob walk to school, because we would like Jacob to walk to school. I walked to school starting in kindergarten and continued to do so into my midde school years. And I remember the experience fondly, both in the mornings and afternoons. Of course this is a different world now than it was when I was in kindergarten. Or at least it seems different. Or at least we parent differently and with different phobias.

I explained to Stephanie that my kindergarten walk to Farine Elementary was longer than what Jacob would have to walk to his elementary school. I guessed my walk was about four miles. I don’t know what Stephanie based her objection on other than innate contrariness, but she said she didn’t think it was that long. But of course I had the power of the internet on my side.

I googled the address for Farine Elementary, where I attended K-5, and of course I remember the address of my childhood apartment from birth to twelve years. Pop those in to Mapquest, and I got a distance of 0.4 miles! Shorter than I thought by a factor of ten, but whatever. Then I googled Jacob’s school address and put that into Mapquest and got a distance of 0.72 miles: almost twice as long! Crazy.

Today was such a gorgeous Fairbanks day, and since I’m still enjoying an extended paternity leave, I walked to pick Jacob up from school this afternoon. It took me all of twelve minutes. How long must it have taken me to walk to school when I was a kid? It felt like such a trek at the time; an Odyssey overcoming myriad challenges and obstacles. It’s crazy now to think that today I could walk it in about six minutes.

All this thinking about walking to school reminded me of a TED talk I saw recently by Ze Frank in which he encouraged the audience to use Google Maps Streetview to take a stroll down memory lane. I found the street view of my apartment and then “walked” the path I took to school every morning and home every afternoon. Sure enough, there was the tree I climbed so often. There was the telephone pole in which I broke the blade off my dad’s cherished pocket knife. There was Kevin’s house where I spent my one and only childhood sleepover. There was the tree stump where I fell backwards while flirting with DeeAnna, my childhood crush, hitting the back of my head on the sidewalk. There is the crosswalk where I almost got hit by a car while riding my bike to school at breakneck speed because we had all overslept. There was the rail fence surrounding one of the many houses where I imagined living. All of this, experienced anew today while sitting in front of my laptop via the incredible power of the internet.

I want all of this for Jacob. I want him to walk to school and seredipitously discover all of the shrubs, rocks, trees, culverts and intersections along the way. But I just don’t think I can let him simply walk alone to school every day. Perhaps it is irrational to fear an abduction. What are the statistics on this kind of thing? At what age would I let him? I don’t know.

It turns out that between 100 and 300 children are kidnapped by strangers each year, most of these are sexually assaulted and/or killed. Given the roughly forty million kids in America, the odds of being kidnapped are very low. This is cold comfort. It reminds me of the statistic that in Alaska about one person is killed by a bear every year. Given all of the people hiking, floating, hunting, camping and living in the wilds of Alaska, the odds of being that one are also relatively low. But I tend to think about it the other way: a person is killed, by a bear, every year. It makes me want to carry some serious deterrent. And drive my boy to school every day.  

Posted on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 11:09PM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | Comments6 Comments

Reader Comments (6)

Walking down memory lane is certainly fun, but also remind us how much the world and society have changed (for the worse in my opinion). Three hundred kids kidnapped/disappeared in a year is a lot (although we don't know how many there were in my days or yours). I hope that Jacob can walk to school every so often, but with adult accompanying him, just to be safe and peace of mind.
October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDad/Opa
Tough decisions with kids today, like you say it is a different world then when you grew up.

Been waiting to see pics of the new little guy nice

Mary Lou
October 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary Lou
Thank you so much for the walk down memory lane, Dear. I treasure every one of your memories. A good bit of that information you shared is news to me. Shows how caught-up an adult parent can be in the day-to-day struggle to make ends meet. I agree with Julius. Take Jacob to school, and then on the occasional 'special' day, walk with him. He gets the best of both worlds that way. Love you so. Hug your beautiful family from me. Mom
October 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMom
I don't know if this will be any consolation but, I followed your directions and googled our old apt. complex and my old school. I noticed two things...
1) apparently I trekked .7 miles from St. Francis Square Apartments to S.S. Conner. I remember that walk being a mix of streets, alleys, crossing the wildly busy John West Blvd. with a brief stop at the Mr. M convenient store for a Slush Puppy.
2) Google doesn't actually go INTO my apartment complex just moves on the streets around it, which, frankly, is not a bad idea.

October 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwatson
I am probably a bit of an overprotective worry wart...but, the way I see it is that in relation to the population of youth, 100-300 does not seem like a large number, but ask any one of those 100-300 children's parent's...I bet it feels pretty big to them! For some reason this post reminded me of (again...the worrier in me!) of the little girl out here that was walking home from school with her sister and others, due to an argument sped ahead of the group...not seen again until they found her body badly abused. I would do anything to spare my children the potential for that pain, even if they don't like me for it at the time.

But...as I said, I am overprotective and can't even begin to imagine a 5-6 year old walking to school by themselves! Heck, Shayna didn't "get" to do that until 7th grade and that was only because I can practically see the school from our house lol. Of course, she fought for this "privilege" only to beg for rides to and from on a regular basis because it was too hot, too cold, too rainy, etc. lol
October 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDayna Breen
Isn't it just amazing how large one's neighbourhood seemed @ 5, and then at.. well, a larger number... it is really quite small and narrow. How small is our understanding, our sense of what is? There's more going on, that what we know...

great post... thanks. Liam won't walk to school alone until he's at least 7.
December 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave Moody

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.