The stars aligned yesterday. Everyone was up and dressed early, it was a beautiful sunny morning, breakfast and a packed school lunch came together without a fuss. My daughter was done eating her breakfast and we had an easy half-hour until we had to be at the bus stop, so we walked.
It’s a long half-mile to the bus-stop, and it’s uphill the whole way, but that’s not why we rarely walk in the mornings. As a family, we are good walkers. Homebrew husband has used an afternoon pacing-session to deal with office stress since before I met him, and our daughter, at age 6, handled a hilly 5-mile wood ramble in the rain without too much complaint.
No, we rarely walk in the mornings because we simply run out of time. Usually, the time we have at home between waking-up and leaving (driving) to the bus is jammed filled with the morning basics: get dressed, change the baby, get the baby dressed, brush teeth, nurse the baby, make and eat breakfast, pack a lunch, feed the cats, feed the chickens, start a load of laundry, change the baby again, mop up baby puke, nurse the baby again, get the baby in the car seat, get the daughter out the door (“Did you remember your lunch? Oh, hell, c’mon honey, put on your shoes, we’ve got to go!”). As much as I hate to say it, our shit is rarely together enough in the morning to allow for a peaceful, leisurely walk to the bus.
This is true of more afternoons than I’d like to admit too. Often I am faced with the dilemma of letting the baby sleep for another 25 minutes and then hurriedly shoving him into his carseat to go pick up his older sister, or waking him and facing the prospect that he will be extremely cranky for several hours. Usually I opt to let sleeping babies lie, and hence forgo the walk.
I’ve also noticed that committing to even minimal after school activities necessitates that I drive to pick up my daughter from the bus rather than walk, because the extra 20 minutes of walking time will make us late to the extra-curricular event. We are loathe to overschedule, but my daughter has once-a-week swimming and once-a-week Spanish class after school, and we find both very valuable. Between those after-school activities and my own once-a-week afternoon job, there are three afternoons when walking isn’t possible. And it’s all because of time.
This is a pity, because I really much prefer to take in the world on my feet instead of on my ass in a car. On those mornings and afternoons when we do walk, the time is inevitably priceless. On our little walks my daughter really opens up and tells me about her ideas and hopes or her experiences at school. She is naturally inward-focused and does a lot of quiet processing on things that I never get to share, but when we walk she is somehow more free to let her thoughts fly. I soak it all in while scanning for inattentive drivers, protecting the moment in all the ways a mom will.
I have to wonder, what would happen if we had to live life at walking speed? How would our options shift for where we live, how we socialize and what we take on? How would our communities be rebuilt to reflect the necessities of slow travel? How much of your life would change?2