It's a simple mathematical equation. If it takes one mother 28 minutes to walk from A to B, then it should take three healthy, youthful, energetic children ….a certain period of time to get from B to A. I use my usual scientific approach, double it and add half of the original = one hour and fifteen minutes, give or take a heart attack.
I give the new campaign considerable thought to aid a successful and therefore self reinforcing spin. I invest in three pedometers and dig out three stop watches to appeal the numerate amongst us. I'm cautiously optimistic that I might be able to tap into the competitive nature of sibling rivalry although that might have hidden dangers.
I remind them of the goal with the assistance of a social story and logic. The goal is the possibility of adding a dog to our household. No hound will be bashful, it will require a daily walk. If no-one is able to walk except me, then the dog shall be mine. I hesitate over the 'mine' word as it is both banned and a trigger word, a dangerous combination. I take a back pack full of water, sun glasses, baseball caps, baby wipes and a front door key.
I am ready. I think?
I shuffle the last one out the door and lock it behind me. They tumble out onto the driveway when I then remind them that we are walking to school today at 6:45 in the morning. A deafening ruckus of protest is immediate from my landed salmon, slapping away on the concrete. I stand and wait. My daughter picks flowers as we wait and glance around for a neighbour count. I use the lighthouse technique, pour praise and attention on the one behaving appropriately. I set her pedometer and stop watch, fiddle with the controls and beam. We arrange her hair over her ears and the sun glasses. The sun glasses catch their attention. We spend a considerable amount of time on the drive way kitting everyone out with their new equipment before we are ready to take a few tentative steps in entirely the wrong direction, since nobody seems to be aware where school might be.
The first real obstacle is one that I should have anticipated, early morning sprinklers. As they sput into action, he bolts before the first droplet has spurted. I order my daughter to keep a safety hand on her brother, the leaning tower of Pisa, as I leg it into the road to retrieve sparky, a jumping jack of nerve endings with the blood curdling screams of the imminently dead. He flails to beat me off but he's still small enough to be scooped. I slope back to the others and piggy back him until he's ready to use his feet again. He's ready quickly, as he strongly objects to being face to face with a back pack, an added bonus.
We make a motley sight ambling towards the school. Spaghetti legs, limp directionless bodies and tippy toes mark us out as rabble. My daughter pauses patiently with each meltdown. We have a remarkably calm exchange, almost conversational in between the screaming protests and collapsed bodies. It is slightly surreal to talk to someone, a pre-teen someone, whilst hunkered on the concrete with a brother who rolls too near a storm drain, 'jail,' or a brother who freaks out at a disfigured road sign or someone convinced that overhead cables are about to fall.
We do not talk about what is happening or who is doing what? She is unfazed and amiable, discusses breeds of dogs, possible names and which sex would be preferable. I fear for her future. What kind of person takes this kind of experience in their stride?
Both boys tell me at frequent intervals, how exhausted they are, although not in so many words, but when the school comes into sight, they both burst forth for a hundred yard dash to the doors. One hour and 17 minutes later, we have completed our first ever leg of the school trip.
We may have fallen by the wayside a few times, but we've all arrived in one piece. Now that's what I call a trip.