I just let Mallory bike to middle school. This little peanut! MIDDLE SCHOOL! For three weeks now actually. My daughter laces up her tennis shoes, straps on her helmet, throws her backpack over her shoulders and off she goes. She bikes with neighborhood kids on a 1 mile journey through Sartell on her way to middle school. For the first week I accompanied her, showing the safe routes and how to get to the crossing guards. But now she does it alone. ALONE!
I let her bike away from me into that scary world full of unknowns…AND my heart swells and breaks at the same time. I cannot control that scary world and I have no business trying to. I let her bike toward a life that is HERS and not mine. Toward experiences that she is meant to have without me. Toward journeys that she HAS to take alone.
And there’s that feeling that occurs inside of a mom’s heart as she’s watching her child walk or bike away without her… As her child reaches another milestone….Elatedevastated. World, please, please, please be good to her. Drivers please see my daughter as she crosses. PLEASE be off your phones and focus on the road. Focus on HER. Kids, please be kind to my daughter and help her if she falls (metaphorically or actually).
The first week of biking to school I checked the classified ads thinking that Mallory was most certainly placing an ad for a new family to live with. She was not happy about biking and she wanted me to change to a job where I no longer advocated for active living. “The healthy choice sucks,” were her exact words. But during week 2 she got to go at it alone with her friends and she fell in love.
And now, now…Now it’s just a way of life for her and I don’t know how to feel. My daughter doesn’t need me…at least not for transportation. NO! NO! NO! That wasn’t supposed to happen. I knew that as part of my role with BLEND I had to walk the walk or bike the bike…until it failed, but Mallory wasn’t supposed to want to do this without me. So every morning I watch her bike away from me and my heart breaks a little.
These past few weeks it hit me that walking and biking to school isn’t really about the health and wellness aspect of it. I read the data daily about kids that walk or bike to school academically outperforming their peers. They have healthier BMIs and most importantly learn lifelong skills about incorporating physical activity into their daily routine…BUT I still struggled. WHY? Because it wasn’t about the numbers or about helping my daughter make healthy choices, it was about letting go. Letting HER go.
I need to let my little girl go…This little person that still needs me to kiss her boo-boos when she falls and to help her put in ponytails….And I suspect that allowing kids walk or bike to school for so many is a lot about letting go for other parents too. A LOT. Some aren’t ready.
That’s probably why many parents look at me like I’m feeding my child Skittles and Jack Daniels for breakfast EVERY morning when I tell them I’m letting Mallory bike to school. My 5th grader. You know that look. Like, “Are you INSANE?” Followed by that overly polite, “That’s greeeaaaaaat.” NOT!
I’ve come to realize that they’re not quite ready to let go yet AND that’s okay. I respect that decision because life can be cruel. Our generation has seen some pretty horrific events that make us want to hold our kids tighter than ever AND that’s okay.
Secretly, part of me thought that letting Mallory bike to school was going to be an epic fail and then we’d go back to her needing me for rides and my being able to protect her with that bubble wrap. BUT she didn’t. And I’m elatedevastated. I can’t hold onto her forever. And sometimes the tighter you hold, the more they slip away, like sand. But letting go hurts. Like A LOT.
It’s like that feeling you get when you look at the sun because it’s so beautiful, but then your eyes start to tear and your retinas start to burn. REALLY BURN. You’ve seen something really beautiful, but it still hurts. Love really hurts. This gets easier, right?
Share one of your child’s milestones and how you handled it in the comment section below for a chance to win a $25 Coborn’s gift card.
Thanks for reading!
BLEND Program Specialist
As back to school mode is in full affect, I’d like to introduce you to BLEND’s newest guest blogger, Marissa Mahowald. As the Safe Routes to School Specialist for BLEND, I am thrilled to find parents who support and encourage their kids to walk and bike to school. Marissa is one of those parents. She is a great role model for fitness and a community champion who truly “walks the walk and talks the talk.” I’m happy to introduce you to Marissa Mahowald!
Marissa is a mom to Tyler, (age 11) Megan, (age 9) and Ryan (age 6) and lives in Sartell, MN. She is a teacher for blind and visually impaired students for St. Cloud Area School District. In her free time, Marissa is an avid runner and just completed her first triathlon this summer and took third in her age group!
And They’re Off…
As the school year gets ready to start, my kids are already talking about how excited they are to walk or ride their bikes to school. And I’m looking forward to watching them head out each morning, knowing that they will be getting some fresh air and exercise before they hit the classroom.
As an adult, I feel more energized and ready to tackle my day when I have gotten up and exercised in the morning. I’m sure that kids are no exception to this. They are better equipped to learn and grow in school when they have had fresh air and a walk or bike ride before sitting in class.
I also like that we are less constrained by the bus schedule when my kids walk or ride. Catching the bus means rushing around and prodding them to keep moving through their morning routine. When they walk or ride their bikes, they can be more flexible in what time they head out the door. This means happier kids and happier parents in our house.
Staying Fit with Our Kids
My husband and I are avid exercisers, and feel it’s important to pass on our love for staying fit with our kids. I still remember riding my bike next to my dad when he went for a run when I was a little girl. When my kids were born, they all rode in the jogging stroller when I went for a run. As they got older, they graduated to being able to bike along with me.
Now our kids participate in various running and biking events in the area, such as the Kids Apple Duathlon and the YMCA’s Wishbone Run. I didn’t discover my love for running and cycling until I was an adult, and I love watching this grow in my children when they are so young. We’re lucky to live in an area with so many fun events and opportunities to stay fit.
Thanks for reading my guest post!
Over the past two weeks 20 students from Pleasantview Elementary in Sauk Rapids, MN have attended the Legionville Crossing Guard Camp near Brainerd, MN as part of a Safe Routes to School Grant, BLEND and the CentraCare Health Foundation. This fall, Pleasantview will have new sidewalks surrounding it as part of a MnDOT infrastructure grant and with it will come a new student run Safety Patrol! We are proud of these students for leading this important safety effort in Sauk Rapids. Way to go!
Below is Caleb Euteneuer and he share’s his experience from Legionville. Caleb is a 5th grader at Pleasantview Elementary.
“I had a fun time at Legionville! Each day we had classes about pedestrian safety, first aid, canoeing, and swimming. I enjoyed learning about pedestrian safety and first aid. Now I know how to use a flag to help other students cross the street safely.”
“If someone gets hurt I know first aid so that I can help them. We also had time to play with friends and go to the canteen. Some other recreational activities that we played were softball, soccer, and kickball.”
“It was fun to have my friends staying in my cabin but it was good to make new friends from other cities. I am looking forward to becoming part of the Safety Patrol at Pleasantview Elementary this fall.”
Thanks for reading! Be sure to visit the Safe Routes to School page on the BLEND website to learn more about my work to grow the Safe Routes to School initiative within Central Minnesota communities.
BLEND Program Specialist
Do you remember walking to and from school, uphill, both ways in the snow? We sure do! Unfortunately, most of today’s children won’t be able to pass on this memory to their children because they aren’t walking to or from school. 43% of kids who live less than a mile from their school are driven to and from school each day.
Safe Routes to School in MN
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national and international movement to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools. The goal of the program is to get more kids walking and biking to school, which can play a critical role in reversing the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.
State legislation, SF 1439/HF 1429, would help Minnesota build the infrastructure needed to give more children the choice to bike or walk to school. Watch the video to learn more.
Studies show that children who walk and bicycle to school are more physically active, have lower body mass index scores, lower obesity levels and are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than students who are driven or bused to school.
It’s unfair to expect and encourage children to be more physically active without providing them an opportunity and safe environment to incorporate exercise into their daily routines. Read more about Safe Routes to School.
The Safe Routes to School bills (SF 1439/HF 1429) would allow for the sale and issuing of $3 million in bonds for capital investment towards walking/biking infrastructure improvements. In the last federal funding cycle MNDOT received 82 applications from local schools requesting $23 million but only $3.8 million was available and awarded to 16 applicants through the federal program.
Get Connected – Join the You’re the Cure network to get connected with your legislators and ask them to support active children with Safe Routes to School.
Voice Your Concern – Join other advocates speak with MN legislators in a strong, unified voice about the importance of fighting heart disease and stroke. On Tuesday, February 12, 2013 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.) – the American Heart Association is hosting their 2013 Minnesota Heart on the Hill event at the State Capitol. Attend workshops and training and then put your skills to the test when you meet with your state legislators. Breakfast and lunch included. No cost to attend but advance registration is required.
Advocate for AHA’s Policy Agenda, which includes:
- Screening newborns for critical congenital heart defects
- Promoting physical activity and better nutrition to reduce heart disease across MN.
This includes supporting active children through Safe Routes to School.
Register online for the 2013 Heart on the Hill!! Register by phone at: 952-278-7934 by Friday, February 1, 2013.
The content of this blog has been adapted from the AHA – Advocacy in MN website.