Why We Walk - presence & our way out of the car line
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
by: Danielle Nickerson
Presence - a word I don’t hear much anymore, but has become fairly popular between my husband and I over the last month. While it has many definitions, I have found a newfound appreciation and respect for the underlying meaning - the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. I will get into why momentarily, but wanted to first point out, that while I respect the definition, I also believe it leaves out one critical element… the abstract idea of not only being physically present in a place or thing, but also mentally present. How I would word the definition to include the idea of being mentally present in said place or thing is irrelevant, but the important piece is that being physically present is vastly different than being mentally present – and being mentally present can make all the difference in the world.
If your family is anything like mine, your days and weeks can seem to come and go with little to no sign of slowing down. Work, practice, school functions, family obligations - the list can go on and on. It seems as though all one does is run from place to place. It is the society in which we live. Smart phones, Bluetooth, email, text messaging – everything is faster and more demanding than ever leaving parents feeling the pressure to measure up and stay on top of it all. Trust me, I’m as guilty as the rest.
Anyone who knows me for longer than an hour can tell you I can’t sit still. I get fidgety when I know there is work to be done and can’t stand to be unproductive. I hear a lot of jokes about me always being on the go or always having a phone up to my ear dealing with some type of issue, planning some type of activity, or sharing some piece of news. I’m always connected. I never had a down moment or a second to consider my ability to be present in the little moments, both physically and mentally. That is until the first day of school.
We have a tradition in my house that every year on the first day of school, my husband and I both drive my daughter to school, ensure we get our “first day of whatever grade” photo, and send her on her way after waiting in the car rider line. This year was the same thing… other than something in the back of my mind urged me to walk my daughter to school. We live about 0.9 miles from Richards Elementary and there are sidewalks, paths between houses, and crossing guards throughout our neighborhood, but rarely have we thought to use them. Actually, I can count on one hand the number of times I have walked my daughter home from school on afternoons I’ve had off and have never walked her to school… so the urge to walk that morning was strange. Looking back, I blame it on the fact that we had recently attended the school’s open house where the construction of Rocky Ford and the sidewalk along Par 3 Drive was discussed and the effect it would have on the car rider lines.
Nevertheless, after ensuring everyone was ready to go, I shared my urge to walk with my husband and daughter thinking there was no way either would be up for the change, but surprisingly both agreed it would be a good idea. I think my husband assumed, as we all do, the car rider line will be extra long with new parents learning the expectations when dropping their children off, young students not wanting to let go of a parent’s hand, or everyone just running a tad bit late due to the sudden need to wake up earlier. Whatever the reasoning, we decided to celebrate the first day of school with a walk to school.
It took us approximately ten to fifteen minutes to walk from our house to the front of Richards and by the time we arrived the car rider line was wrapped around the school and past the bus lot entrance. We took our pictures and waited for a few of our daughter’s friends to arrive before heading back to the house. The car rider line never seemed to get any shorter and parents we knew were sharing their frustrations via text message and Facebook. When we arrived back at our house, we were surprised at how quick the trip had been. We were able to get to the school and back in less than thirty minutes and my husband had time to spare before having to leave for work.
After hearing several friends complain about the car line and the frustrations with the length of time spent waiting to get to the back of the school, my husband and I decided to walk my daughter every morning for the first couple days. As we spent the mornings walking, I found myself often forgetting my phone at the house and enjoying the company of my husband and daughter without the distraction of the phone ringing. My daughter was able to share her excitement about the day and her plans for recess. My husband and I were able to spend ten to fifteen minutes walking back together discussing the small things we never seemed to have time to discuss before and I started to notice feeling as though I had more energy throughout the day.
After the first week of school, we invited my daughter’s best friend and her brother to walk to school with us and their parents gladly began dropping them off at our house to avoid the long wait in the car rider line. The mornings became fun and much less stressful for me. You see, for the last two years (my daughter is now in second grade) my mornings always started out with hitting the snooze on my alarm several times before actually getting out of bed, realizing I hit the snooze one too many times, and panicking about getting myself and daughter ready to get out the door (while my husband is amazing, there is something a seven year old girl dislikes about her father doing her hair). Once I ensured my daughter was ready to go, my husband and I would go back and forth a few times on who had the most time to drive her a mile down the road and sit in the car rider line for ten to fifteen minutes before heading to work. Many times, my poor husband lost the battle and forfeited his stop to Starbucks in order to ensure she made it before the 8:00am bell rang. Mornings were hectic. My daughter rarely wanted to get out of bed, my dogs always seemed to pick the wrong morning to escape through the front door and I always felt stressed.
Not anymore. Now my daughter is up and getting ready long before crunch time and I find myself not even wanting to touch the snooze. We have a routine down in the house and everyone has a role… always ready to walk out the door when friends start arriving. It has created a very positive and uplifting vibe to our mornings and helps us start the day out on the right foot. As we walk, we are able to talk to the kids about what is going on in their lives and be fully present in the moments with them. When we arrive at school, each kid knows a high five and “have a great day” is expected and each and every one participates happily… often reminding us before we have a chance to ask. As the days have moved on, additional friends and neighbors have begun joining our group and each and every one of them share that they are excited to start the day together. Many times, our dogs even get to join the walk as the kids love to hold the leash and walk the dog to school.
I have had many conversations with my husband about the benefits of walking to school each and every morning. Presence has come up so many times and I have realized that in those moments, I am truly connecting with my family and positively impacting the lives of the children who walk with us. In a short time, I have gone from the mother who was always in a rush to the mother who wants to show her daughter that she is strongly present. In that twenty to thirty minute walk, not only am I exercising and increasing my healthy living habits, but I am also teaching my daughter to do the same. Not only am I disconnecting from the world around me by leaving my phone at the house, but I am teaching my daughter that I am fully engaged with her and her world. On these walks, I find out a little more about her interests and hobbies, fears and worries, joys and disappointments. I get to know her friends – the people who will have a lot of influence on her as they grow up together – and they get to know me. On these walks, I get to know my neighbors and come to grow in spirit of the neighborhood… and on most days, I do so all within the time it would have taken to get in my car, drive to the school, wait in line, and drive back home.