I woke this morning to the sound of torrential rain beating on the roof and garden. It was bucketing down. My very first thought “Fuck! It’s walk safely to school day”. I curled up under the covers in a state of denial and then when that didn’t work lay flat on my back looking intently on the ceiling weighing up the ethical dilemma of breaking a written pledge to participate in the day come rain or shine. Surely there was a way to spin opting out into a positive parenting opportunity. There.must.be.a.way.
Nope. I was cornered. We were walking to school!
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for walking to school. In the warmer months a walk to school is often on the cards, then the days are long and we’ve been up for hours. In Perth it pretty much never rains in the warmer months so planning to walk to school is easy peasy. I’m not necessarily anti-walking in the rain either. There was an afternoon when E. was in pre-primary that I suited M up head to toe in wet weather gear and had O all cocooned in a water-proofed pram and we deliberately set out knowing that it would bucket down on the way home. It was awesome. All but little baby O got soaked head to toe. The rain was loud and hard and rivers seemed to appear from no where and came rushing down the streets. We had so much fun! But we were walking home, and there was a hot shower and hot chocolate to be had at the end of the journey.
Walking to school in the rain just didn’t cut it as an enchanting prospect. It was an adventure that I could forgo but undertook nonetheless…
… and we had the most wonderful time. The clouds parted and there wasn’t a drop of rain our entire walk to school. There were puddles galore and my “school kids don’t get your shoes wet” instructions were completely (and probably rightly) ignored. Note that O. also wore a backpack even though he didn’t need to.
Tonight I have been looking at the WSTSD website and realised that we didn’t actually walk to school safely. Well not according to the recommendations anyway. According to the site “Until they're 10 children must always hold the hand of an adult when crossing the road. And until they're 8 children must always hold the hand of an adult when they're on the footpath.” I’m all for holding hands, particularly across major roads and roads that cars are turning into. However since I am most determined that O hold my hand crossing every road when he has a tantrum, which are frequent just now when it comes to crossing the road, I tend to resort to just hauling him up (kicking and screaming) and carry him across so that the family can keep going on its way. In such situations the older two, E and M just walk closely to me and sometimes hold onto the pram which I am pushing with my spare hand. I never hold any of their hands when we’re walking on the footpath. I’m usually using both hands to push the pram! On footpaths close to busy roads I might push the pram with one hand and hold O’s hand in the other, but it just isn’t physically possible for me to hold all of my under 8 year old’s hands on the footpath considering my eldest child is only 7! I’m a little surprised by this recommendation. I was walking home from school without a parent when I was six years of age, and that involved crossing some busy roads and a very confusing round-about traffic arrangement (it was the first in our area!). Some thirty years later the recommendation isn’t just that children should have a parent with them when walking but that they should also be holding their hand on the footpath.
What about you? Do you think this is overkill too? Do you always hold children’s hands when walking on footpaths? Maybe you know from experience that this is good advice?
I just can’t imagine walking anywhere if I had to hold all three hands plus push the pram.