We live in one of those gated neighborhoods which are very common in the Tampa area. I’m not a snob, and I have no illusions that the gate does much to keep bad people out. There are paths on either side of the gate, so you can freely walk into my neighborhood. And all you have to do is wait for a car who has the coded sticker on their window or a driver with the right code, and follow them in. This just happens to be where I found a house in our price range, big enough to comfortably fit us, and available when I needed it. The gate was not a factor in determining which house to rent.
Because of the gate, the school bus doesn’t come in. Students get dropped off at one entrance or the other – one about a half mile down the road from the other. If you made a complete loop through the neighborhood, including the outside bit along the public road between the two gates, you will have done a 5k – convenient for those of us who run, or wish to run.
By this calculation, the farthest any student would have to travel from their home to the bus stop would be under a mile and a half. Every time I go out in the afternoon to take a kid to something or run an errand, I see a dozen cars or more parked at the entrance, waiting for the bus.
I realize that, like me, some parents need to rush their kids off to after school activities or on errands. Or they need the kids to come home quickly to do homework before rushing off to activities. Or maybe sometimes the weather is bad (afternoon thunderstorms being very common this time of year). Or maybe a kid is injured or has some other condition that prevents them from walking. And maybe that kindergartener who lives all the way in the back of the neighborhood would have a hard time trudging that full distance.
But is it possible, even likely, that most of these parents just think it’s too much for their children to walk home? Or too dangerous to walk down the sidewalk in a gated neighborhood? I know that in some communities (on military installations, for example) an 11 year old would not be permitted to walk home alone (and I think that is ridiculous), but must they be picked up in a car? Surely, not all these children live clumped at that mile-plus section of the neighborhood. I’m sure they are spread out – a half mile or three-quarters of a mile away instead.
We have NYC outlawing soda in large quantities in the fight against obesity. I think the problem isn’t the food we eat as much as it is the reality that we just won’t exercise, even when it’s the natural and necessary thing to do.
I used to walk a mile each way to school. It's not really a long distance, and kids usually travel in groups, chatting and laughing and playing as they go, so they'd hardly notice the exertion. 🙂 Too much media makes us parents scared, though. We forget those terrible reports we hear are the exception, rather than the rule. And unless we know our neighbors and know that other people are looking out for our kids, too, well, it's hard to let go.
I used to walk to and from grade school, too, and only once was scared about a creepy person. That was 40 years ago. Sixty years ago my mother was walking home from school and a man flashed her and her girlfriends. That was a rarity then. Now, I don't think so. I have lived in the same neighborhood for 14 years and I wouldn't let my daughter walk a half mile unless I could see her the whole way. There ARE more creepy people in the world than even 10 years ago. The Internet is full of them. So many people have no faith and no values. I guess I have lost hope in my fellow man.
Three reasons tor obesity (ok many but here are three):
Video games and 24/7 television (aka TV on demand)
Physical education has taken a backseat to (broken) academics and lazy teachers (did that sound judgmental? Oops!)
My kids play outside but that's because homeschooling allowed it and they are used to it.
Kiss that baby Georgie for me.:-)
but maybe they are picking up their child so that they can rush them to gym to get some much needed exercise. j/k But you have a serious point there.
I think the really hard part is the fear people have, me included. We live in a very very safe area – but most people work during the day and are not around. In the last 2 weeks there have been 3 reports of attempting lurings of kids about 10 miles from here – an adult male sneaking up on kids from behind the bushes. My kids are homeschooled. But if I had a child get off the bus 1/2 mile away I wouldn't feel comfortable letting her walk home alone. If she was walking with at least one other child, I'd be fine with it.
While we probably do live in a safer world now, we also know more. It's like bike helmets. Most of us grew up without them and we survived. But, I'd feel terrible if something happened to one of my kids because I didn't take that small precaution. That being said, I truely don't look down on someone who let's there kids ride without one – really what are the odds….it's just my way of doing what I can without being freakishly controlling.
I totally agree about not letting kids walk alone for a half mile…of course mine would have each other. My complaint is that they are picked up by car seemingly all the time. There are no parents STANDING around waiting to walk their children home. Not one. What message does that send to children? Plus I think the group I saw yesterday was high school or middle school age. It was 230 pm…too early for elementary school.
I live just across the street from a bus stop. This is just a bus stop for kids in a 1-block radius: there are plenty of other stops in the neighborhood.
There is a family who lives 5 houses down. They drive their child to the bus every day. Then they drive home. It's not like they're dropping him off on the way to work (which I could understand). This is a child who plays on elite teams for 2 sports so he is certainly healthy enough to walk (or run) that distance. You've been in my neighborhood. These are not 3-acre lots.
As to the fear thing, the rule in our town is that kindergarten children must have someone at the bus stop to retrieve them. Older than that, the driver can let them off the bus. I tend to keep an eye out for our neighbor kids who are on a different bus from my son.
If I weren't right across the street, where I can see the bus stop from my front window, I'd insist on staying outside near my kids at the stop, just for safety reasons.
And we're in a town where people who live 4 blocks from the high school insist on driving there.
Get outside, kids!
I don't have any buses coming through my neighborhood reguarly, but I drive by a stop in another nearby neighborhood each week and refreshingly it's quite the opposite of your description. No cars, but lots of waiting parents who do seem to be walking the kids home with strollers or bikes for the younger ones. When I was a kid we all walked, but the kids back home now no longer do because of all the “creeps.” If I were sending my kid to the school up the way we would all walk together each day, because a man tried to abduct a girl last year just a few blocks away. But of course, we're home schooled so it's not something I've got to think about on a daily basis.
Up here in rural Maine (where 1/3 of the residents are on welfare, according to the governor and the obesity rate has to be close to 40%)I see parents drive their kids down the driveway for the bus. Now, our driveway is 1/4 mile long so others are similar and it does get cold out there in the winter, but for the past 2 beautiful weeks I see parent after parent sitting in a car behind their kid waiting for the bus.
I just read that October 3 is International Walk to School day.
My son is driven 45 min round trip and my daughter walks downstairs from the second floor so it's not exactly the same for us. Or you. But maybe your neighbors will celebrate!
It cracks me up that the creator intends for it to be “international.” Surely there are many areas of the world where people will say “what else would we do?”
Great discussion here! You're right, why don't parents walk with their kids to the bus stop if they are concerned? I do see this happening in some neighborhoods around here. Maybe if more parents sitting in their cars saw parents walking with their kids they might get out and do it too.
I have been accused both of being too relaxed and of being too protective :). I guess everyone is different.
I'm protective in that I don't let my kids watch PG13 movies; I don't let them watch most of the garbage on TV, including commercials; I don't let them attend public school (we homeschool).
I am supposedly too lax in that I let my kids ride bike/walk pretty much anywhere their legs will take them, starting around age 10. I generally make them bring a friend or sibling (no traveling alone) until they are 12 or so. My kids think nothing of hopping on a bike and riding 4 miles into town with a friend. Other local moms have given me the 'are you crazy look' when they hear this. We have the usual number of loonies and druggies, but I refuse to let fear run my life or my kids', I guess.–Diane
I love reading your blog and hearing about your life and observations of the world. Was glad to hear you were moving to my home state and what your adventures here would be. I live not far from you in a similar planned community. I will say that I think it is the culture of a place that ultimately decides things as simple as “Will you pick up your child by car or foot?” from the bus stop. Our community was specifically designed to be a walking place. There is a pre-k through 8 school in the center of the community, and I believe no family lives more than a mile away, with sidewalks and even crossing guards. Every morning the streets are swarming with walkers / bike riders. The bike racks are packed, and like your parade of cars waiting at the bus stop, there is a whole pack of walking parents waiting outside the school for their kids and their neighbors' kids. Of course this is how you know who is who, and whose kids are whose, a great benefit. Observing all this, a parent would feel awkward pulling up in the minivan. Maybe if someone started a revolution in your 'hood, others would follow suit. There is hope for humanity!