Forty plus years ago, I would walk to and from school every day with my sister. Twenty plus years ago, I repeated this routine with my own daughter. Currently with the present crop of children, walking anywhere is not part of our routine. I decide that I need to take stock and figure out why this should be?
The easiest thing to do would be to blame my two autistic boys who have strong objections to walking. What I like about this excuse is that there is a nugget of truth in it, or rather a tiny granule. They are autistic and they don't like walking. Convenient though that is, the real truth is more inconvenient.
The first truth is that I have a genuine dislike of anything that could remotely be described as exercise. Exercise is in the 'boring' category for me. Not only is it boring, it is also generally time consuming, unproductive and expensive. Whilst I was happy to cycle to work for a decade, that actually saved commuting time, money, the planet and it was fun. Exercise bike's and their ilk, are works of the devil guaranteed to numb the brain.
The second truth is that it's really America's fault and has nothing to do with me personally at all. I am quite blame free. America is a car nation. Anywhere that you might just possibly want to visit, is inconveniently located at least one car ride away. Anywhere else that you may not be quite so interested in visiting, but have to visit, will be located at an additional, even further, car ride away. The total dominance of the car mentality means that as often as not they forget to build any sidewalks.
A few years ago, I worried that when we visited England that I would have forgotten how to walk at all. I heard on the radio that a healthy bod should take 10,000 steps a day. A huge and daunting figure. I read about how old people needed to do weight bearing exercise to increase bone density. I bought a pedometer and stuck it on my waist band after I dropped my little daughter at pre-school as I still had the boys at home.
I was too busy to read the LED screen at any angle with splotched bifocals as I staggered around the house with endless hampers of laundry and carried one or other child or sometimes both, until mid morning. I briefly parked my pair of load bearing 'excercisers' in the baby swing and play pen respectively, where they commenced their vocal protest. I took a glimpse at the little screen, gave it a little tap and noticed that it read well over 10,000. I tossed it on the kitchen counter. I didn't need to exercise, I needed a rest!
The third truth, is that I'm as guilty as the next person of taking the easy option. Even more years ago, I bought a double buggy or stroller, so that we could enjoy fresh air. We would not remain prisoners in our own home. I suspect that the fault lay in the buggy design, in that the children faced forwards whilst I pushed from behind. Maybe it was because they couldn't see me but whatever it was, the mayhem and hysteria that ensured poured icy water on my plans, and that was before the rainy season.
Only two years ago I tried. We walked from parked car to school, for an evening function. After less than ten paces they collapsed on the ground screaming like banshees, rolling on the lawn and kicking the concrete. The homeowner peeked out from behind the curtain as surely I had beaten them with a burnt stick?
Now I am faced with the reality of my sloppy ways, a collection of children completely incapable of walking more than 9 yards outside their own home. We are in dire need of remedial action. They still have no traffic sense, which means that every road is a danger. They're never going to acquire any traffic sense if they're never exposed. I decide to pose as a walker and expose my psyche to a new campaign of torture, for all of us for different reasons.
In theory it should be easy. I think of the one thing that they have continuously hated since time immemorial, car journeys. Surely this is the most obvious solution. Hate the car, then avoid it and walk! To be fair I know that it is mainly the 'transition' to the car rather than the car ride itself, but it still have a crumb of logic in there somewhere, doesn't it?
The initial campaign will be to walk home from school every day. I make a dry run. Two point two miles as a leisurely pace. 22 minutes of stroll, on my own, including traffic light pauses. As I walk I realize that we won't be able to walk on Wednesday because of double therapy. We won't be able to walk on Fridays when the triple play dates take place. 3 walks a week seems both pathetic and Herculean at the same time.
My brain flips back and forth between the two options, with little spikes of terror as I see the uneven path, the sprinklers, the trash, an infinite number of road signs to read and the occasional dog and owner. The more I walk, the more hic-cups I see both on the horizon and beneath my tatty shoes. The temperature is in the 70's in March. In a short while, it will be too hot to walk around outside during the day. I'll need to take sunglasses, baseball caps, water bottles and sunscreen. Sunscreen! Just the thought of sunscreen is enough to give me an attack of the vapours.
Which two additional adults could I bribe to accompany us? Someone to guard each little body, especially the 'easily collapsible' one and the 'likely to spin off and bolt like a fire-cracker' one. Maybe I should just tie us altogether with little bits of string, a chain gang of incomprehensible safety?