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
It’s a relatively new term, but an age-old practice. We’re talking about an organized and/or intentional walk to school, often called “A Walking School Bus”. The term makes it a fun and an intriguing idea for youth who live within walking distance of school and who have a safe route. The idea encourages kids use their feet as primary transportation.
In a recent SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Program) newsletter, the Albany Area School District in MN was highlighted for their walking programs. They graciously shared their story with BLEND.
“Albany Area Schools began conversations in May with the county/city regarding Safe Routes to School (SRTS). The group has been concentrating on the pathways within one mile of the school grounds. Students who walk/bike to school receive
punches on their “frequent walk/biker” cards. When the punch cards are completed, they can be redeemed for a prize. The district also has started a walking program for students before school and during recess timeframes. Students are encouraged
to talk and walk on the metered track. The momentum to be physically active has grown in the schools. The SRTS project includes efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state and federal government to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk or bicycle to school. SRTS programs examine the conditions around schools, conduct projects and activities that work to improve safety, accessibility and reduce traffic and air pollution in school areas. As a result, these programs help make biking and walking to school safer and a more appealing transportation choice thus encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age. For more information about SRTS please visit http://www.dot.state.mn.us/saferoutes/.”
We’re pleased to share this inspiring story with you. If you know of a similar program you’d like to share with us, please leave a comment below.