Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Walking: the best education

Today I read an article about Super Moms. The success-oriented Yuppie Mom cult is finally exposed for the insanity it is. I kind of had to laugh. "Why does it take people so long to realize things that I knew right from the start? Of course if you pressure and over-control your kids, you and them will be emotional wrecks. Duh."

Personally I have no experience to compare with these moms who overscheduled their kids' childhoods, pushed them into the Best Nursery Schools, etc. When I was raising kids, I definitely didn't have a prestigious career against which to juggle them. All I wanted was a part-time gig to get me out of the house and get cash into my pocket now and then.

When I was raising kids (here we go with a "when I was your age" tale), we kind of all hung out together. We played with Lego's a lot, watched Sesame Street some, but mostly what we did when we got bored was go on a walk. Sunny days, snowy days, cloudy days. Doesn't matter.

They've got all kinds of sports and Accelerated learning for kids, but I think going on walks provides the best education there is. What did we learn and teach while strolling about the neighborhood? First of all, the obvious stuff: it's a great exercise. The best all around cardio workout there is, with no danger of sprains and fractures. Then there's the emotional benefit of spending time together without any TV in the background.

Going on a walk also provides good all-around science and sociology lessons. You get to look at houses, lots of houses. "Architecture". (Today my grown kids find it a pleasure to look at houses and imagine the layouts.) You might see some neighbors. See what people are doing, what they're driving, where they're going.

Obviously you will learn a lot about Nature and Ecology by passing the gardens, woods patches and field edges. I could write tons more about the bugs, weeds, and even the horses (that's right, one of our neighbors has ponies.) The oak trees, for which my town is named, provide toys in the form of acorns with little 'caps'. (Anthropology: "did you know that our primitive ancestors lived on acorns, a lot longer than humans have eaten wheat?" We tried cooking them. Kind of tough, but edible.)

Best of all, there are the curbside piles of trash and discarded Stuff, from which you learn valuable lessons in economics and the practical arts. Today I passed a curb where someone had discarded windows. "So THATs what a window looks like when it's not inside a house. So THAT's how they attach it..." I freely admit to being a Trash Picker. My kids too. We loved finding Stuff that someone else didn't want, that we thought might be cool. A desk, a bug-keeper box, old Barbies, a bed. We weren't too proud to take it if we wanted it.Today my daughter follows the tradition of frequenting garage sales and Goodwill stores, and she does not shop herself into credit card debt.

I guess the Yuppie Mom wouldn't think much of that.

I think the best lesson that my kids and I both learned from walking is how to relax, observe, listen, and enjoy life. Think of all the blue skies, sunsets, bird songs you miss if you don't get out. People need to store nutrients for their bodies, and beauty for their souls. And where's the beauty? It's outside.

But this article won't be done till I get on my soapbox. Why is it that no one walks today? Is it because we're a lot of lazy slugs? No, it's because there are so few good places to walk. Developers do their best to bulldoze every last bit of woods and fields so they can build acres of gigantous, humongous, dreary, ugly "luxury Executive Homes" (big enough to house 5 normal families). Do they leave anything un-built, spontaneous, free, un-controlled? No. Not even a sidewalk.

Our society also conspires to squelch any sort of exploration and enjoyment. If you walk anywhere, a horde of cars and trucks will try to run you down. One time my kids tried to walk into town, and damned if a cop didn't stop them and ask them what was wrong. It's no wonder kids don't feel they're real human beings until they get behind a wheel.

That is my sermon for tonight. It's time to get away from the keyboard and go for a walk.


At 3:30 AM, Blogger Chip said...

I'm with you on the walking! WHen I was staying home with my daughter we lived in a big city so there actually were lots of places to walk. And that's exactly what I did every day. We bundled up (or not depending on weather) and went out to walk, in the park, in the neighborhood, to the nearby college, anywhere for baby and daddy to look at interesting things, burn off energy, and spend time outside the apartment...

At 4:46 AM, Blogger F. and X. Kwan said...

Oh my God baby, they do that in King of Prussia, they ask you what's wrong? I thought that was limited to this primitive horrid part of the world...all my physical illnesses and psychological problems can be traced to one damn thing: NOT BEING ABLE TO WALK FROM POINT A TO B. Every last one of them. All that stuff you write about is stuff I take pictures of when I do get to walk! :)

kissy kiss!

f. kwan


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