Would You Allow Your Nine Year Old Kid To Walk Eight Blocks To School?

walkingI walked to school nearly every day. I hoofed it to Dunbar Elementary, Dunbar Junior High, and Dunbar High. Almost every day, of every school year. I literally can’t remember a time when I was dropped-off by one of my parents. I’m sure it happened, but it was so rare I can’t recall it.

And Dunbar Elementary was about eight blocks from our house. I’d cross over the railroad tracks, pick up Steve, and we’d walk to Mrs. Miller’s class, or whatever. Never thought a thing about it…

Nowadays that doesn’t happen. Parents believe the moment their kids turn the corner, this guy will be there waiting for them:

gacy

Plus, eight blocks? Can modern children walk that far? In the unlikely event the pampered and translucent li’l shits are up for the physical challenge, they’d be loaded with water bottles. Right? I mean, they can’t be expected to walk for fifteen minutes straight, without rehydrating seven or eight times with water collected at the base of the Matterhorn.

And those heavy backpacks! No, they’d need a pack mule, or something similar. And how practical is that? Most public schools, especially at the elementary level, are just not equipped to shelter and feed a team of donkeys and backpack mules during the day.

pack mule

Yes, it’s easy to mock. Also fun. But I’m just as guilty as anyone. I know, intellectually, that crime rates are no higher — and probably lower — than they were in the 1970s. And I realize kids are almost NEVER abducted by strangers in this country. But it doesn’t matter. Emotions take over. Emotions, fueled in part by Dateline NBC.

When a kid is young they’re innocent and completely trusting in you. And you want to live up to that trust, more than just about anything in this world. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s difficult to know just how powerful that feeling can be. Thus, shit gets out of hand. And I would’ve NEVER allowed my young kids to walk eight blocks to school every day like I did. It would’ve been out of the question.

dateline

But I’m not a complete lunatic. There’s a cul-de-sac near us where a lot of young, well-to-do families live. I’d guess there are fifteen houses on each side of the street, and about three more at the end. It’s one straight shot, no turns or hills or anything. The bus deposits the kids at the mouth of this fancy-pants enclave. And every day the parents are bunched there, waiting to collect their children and ferry them 75 or 100 yards to the safety of their living rooms.

That’s a bit much, and I ridicule them whenever the opportunity arises. Those kids can’t walk half a block or whatever? Hell, the parents could watch them through a window, from any house on the street. But it’s simply too risky. A falcon could swoop down and carry one of them off, or the Abington Heights Ripper might pull up in a Mercedes SL65 and start slashin’ throats. So, they pick them up, and drive them back to their houses — a stone’s throw from where they were dropped off.

falcon

So, yeah. It’s often taken too far, but I understand it. In fact, if I’m honest… I understand the over-protective helicopter moms more than I understand our anything-goes ’70s parents.

What’s your feelings on this one? Please share them in the comments.

And I’ll see you guys again next time.

Have a great day!

Buy yourself something cool at Amazon! It’s the American way.

Comments

  1. I see people who live in rural areas drive their kids to the end of the lane. Some are rather long lanes and some are short, I understand it on the long lanes, when it’s zero out, in this day and age someone would call Children Services if they saw a child standing in the cold waiting on a bus. But when the weather is nice? Of course kids nowadays can’t be bothered to actually put on a coat anyway when it’s cold out, when did that shit start? I’m rambling, Walter out.

    • Steve in WV says:

      I can’t get my kids to wear a coat in the winter. They will wear hoodies and/or a light jacket, but never a coat.

      • Man, we wore those big ass parkas with the furry zipper hoods, sure, we all looked like Kenny but we were warm. I don’t think the nuns would have let us outside to play on the snow piles if we didn’t have a warm coat anyway.

  2. Abington Heights Ripper….LOL!
    Yeah, back when we were kids, the Qweezy Mark and I would walk to school each day (unless we had undergone some badass-type operation where we were rendered crippled), If the school was within walking distance, like a mile downhill both ways, I could see letting them walk once they get to 7th grade.

    • The Qweezy Mark says:

      Oh, that icy wind when it was near 0 degrees out! That was awesome! Admittedly, my part of that walk was all of 250 yards. It was uphill in the morning, though.

  3. Swami Bologna says:

    When I was in kindergarten and, 1st grade, we lived about a half-mile from the elementary school. And yes, I walked to school and back every day by myself — as a 5- and 6-year-old. This would’ve been 1966 and 1967, I believe. There were a few times when my mom noticed I was late getting home, so she would walk my route to the school, and find me underneath a big black lab named Ichabod. That dog would often try to knock me down and sit on my as I walked home — usually I won the battle, but sometimes not. Mom knew that if I was ever late, Ichabod was probably sitting on top of me; and she’d come to my rescue. After 1st grade we moved to a new neighborhood where the school was a few miles away, so I took the bus thereafter.

    I don’t have any kids myself, but I doubt if I would let a 5- or 6-year-old of mine walk a half mile alone. But I’m glad I lived during the period when kids could be free. I think we’re better off for it, than the pampered kids of today who don’t get to experience any real freedom until after they’re about 18.

  4. Oh, I just realized, God forbid, I rode my bicycle to school when it was nice out. That Schwinn stingray 5-speed could out run any creepers driving around in vans with blacked out windows, handing out candy.

  5. Fat Dave says:

    I worked in a museum for a while last year, and I was shocked to see the kids coming in during the Winter in short sleeved shirts, shorts, and no coats. At first I thought they were from underprivileged backgrounds, until an affluent school group showed up, and even they weren’t dressed for the weather. Then sometimes the little morons pretended to shiver in the exhibits to try and get out of the tour and activities. That really chapped my ass. Of course, I’m sure they all had chapped asses, too.

  6. SaucyDeb says:

    From 1st to 8th grade, in the mid 80’s, I went to Catholic school with no bus service so I always walked to school. It was maybe 3 blocks, but in the winter, in Missouri, it’s damn cold and in August when school started back up, walking home in a drippy 100 degrees was no fun. I assure you, my parents didn’t give two shits what the weather was like; my butt as walking.

    My kids walk home from school. They, too, go to Catholic school and we live a in a posh little suburb so I’m not even a little worried. Of course, my older son is a 6’1, 13 year old martial artist, so I’m not too worried about his safety.

  7. I’ve seen children dropped off by the school bus at the end of their own driveway and driven up to the house., a whole 60 or 70 yards. I could *possibly* excuse that if it was epically pissing down, but no.

  8. Ugh. Don’t get me started. My ex-wife once threatened to call child services because I dared to let my 10 year-old go into a movie theater in the middle of the afternoon, with a cell phone, while I waited in the lobby with my laptop catching up on work. I didn’t want to see the stupid movie she wanted to and I had work to do. I was in the lobby. But my ex-wife flipped out when my daughter ratted me out.

    Just what did she think was going to happen, I asked. What danger could she possibly be in sitting in a crowded theater in the middle of the afternoon with a cellphone while I was not more than 100 yards away? “Who knows what could happen, ” she responded, ” she was out of your sight.” Oh, yes, well that explains everything. Children must NEVER be out of your line of sight every day 24 hours. Who knows, indeed. No one has an answer to that one. Who does know? Can’t argue with that.

    Anyway,check this out if you are so inclined. Further evidence… http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2014/08/slate_childhood_survey_results_kids_today_have_a_lot_less_freedom_than_their.html

    • Jazzbone Swirly says:

      I grew up with almost no parental guidance or oversight during the 1970s. I walked to a city park recreation center after school, and was picked up there at 5:00pm by my folks until about 5th or 6th grade, then I caught a ride home from a parent in my neighborhood, When I turned 16, I drove myself home after school. I was the classic latchkey kid I smoked dope and played my drum kit all afternoon.

      • Jazzbone Swirly says:

        I am not sure why this post is a reply, but so be it. Maybe it was all of that methocarbamol I did in high school.

  9. I walked to school when I was 6 years old. It was more than a few blocks. I use to pick up pop bottles along the way and take them to the candy store on the way home.

    I don’t anyone getting dropped off by their parents when I was in school. I am sure someone did – but I don’t recall it.

  10. johnthebasket says:

    Walked 12 blocks grades K-6, ten blocks 7-9, and 12 blocks 10-12. I think the family got a second car somewhere in the middle of that, so if it was raining crazy, as it has been known to do in the Great Pacific Northwest, Mom would drive us if she was available. My friend Brian got a car when we were 17, so we rode most of my senior year.

    Starting at age 13, I also had a paper route after school, in which I walked nearly three miles carrying 110 newspapers at the beginning.

    Whether walking to school or on the paper route, I never got fucked in the ass once. I proudly maintain that record to this day, although one doesn’t want to rule things out entirely. The lights are changing.

    John

  11. We live too far from school for my kid to walk there, so I’ll be taking him. I personally wouldn’t let him walk too far by himself. There are too many weirdos, even though we do live in a nice area. I remember being approached by weirdos when I was 12 or 13, in even nicer areas of town. I want to make sure my kids can handle themselves, but it only takes one time for something horrible to happen. I won’t risk it.

  12. I walked occasionally, but usually took the bus.

    Because of all the dropping off, our elementary school curbside is insane just before school starts. My wife, God love her, decided to Get Involved and came up with a plan to make picking up and dropping off easier.

    One component was having the school safetys (4th and 5th graders) open car doors and help the little kids un-ass their BMW SUV’s quickly and safely. One mom complained in writting that now she also had to worry about her kids AND the safeties getting snatched off the curb DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE SCHOOL WHILE BEING DROPPED OFF!

    I couldn’t decide between laughing, crying, being horrified, or rightous indignation at the stupidnoia.

    We fought back by example.

    The Peanut was in second grade last year and weather permitting my wife would let her walk the half-mile or so to and from school in the company of her friend who was in 3rd grade.

    The school is essentially part of our subdivision and they only have to cross one street, where they’re assisted by a crossing guard.

    My seven-year old is smart enough not to talk to strangers and there’s houses full of people and cars full of paranoid parents watching while she walks.

    My wife and I are doing our best to be 70’s era go-out-and-play kind of parents. I want a kid who can function independently by the time she’s out of college.

    • Touche Jorge,

      How are these bubble wrap little dolls going to function as adults when the time comes. Scary.

  13. No way – and I had a hefty walk/bike ride in junior high.

    Here’s a clue to how it has changed. My Dad, was a very optimistic person AND the Chief deputy coroner and in these last years – he said the creep factor has magnified – no way would he & Mom let me make that trek now .. . . .

    When a Coroner says that? . … Maybe the parents of today aren’t so paranoid. It only takes once AND as you said – so many kids are just way too trusting.

  14. Great Googly Moogly says:

    I graduated in 1990 to give a time frame reference. In K-3 I walked about 12 blocks to school which was about 3/4 of a mile. 4-6 was actually bit shorter at 7 blocks and 1/2 mile or so. 7-8 was about 15 blocks or about a mile. 9-12 was about 1 1/2 miles but I only walked that for a year or so before driving or riding with a carload of hooligans. It wasn’t a bad walk, In elementary school I never got a ride. It was pretty inconceivable that my parents would even entertain such a thought. You have legs, walk your lazy ass to school. Raining? here’s your raincoat. Cold? We bought you a winter coat and warm boots for a reason.

    Were I living where I grew up now I wouldn’t let my kids walk simply because the neighborhood has changed so much. It’s demonstrably not safe anymore. Wouldn’t let them attend the school either for that matter. If it was like it was when I was a kid I’d have no problem whatsoever.

    Where I live now I wouldn’t have an issue letting kids walk 10 miles to town if they wished.

  15. I have an irrational fear that someone will steal my kids, so they get walked to and from school by their mother.

  16. My sister and at the ages of 9 and 6 were let out and perhaps expected to hang out in the Rocky Mountain National Forest for the entire day with nothing more than a whistle and a granola bar.

    My 12 year-old daughter is allowed to ride her bike around our Detroit suburb as long as she calls every 20 minutes. I still freak out but I can’t keep her in a damn box.

  17. I walked 10 blocks to school from grades 2 through 5. Starting in 6th grade I changed schools and started taking the subway.

    I don’t have kids, so I never really thought about the question. I think I might let (make?) them walk, depending on the particulars.
    .

  18. Mookie325 says:

    I drive past a large bus stop on my way to work every morning. There must be 15 kids waiting to take the bus the 1/2 mile to school. Oddly enough, there’s typically 3 or 4 cars parked on the side of the road with kids and their parents inside waiting. REALLY???? The lil shits can’t even be allowed to wait in a group of 15?? Is Jason liable to show up and massacre the whole lot of them?? I don’t think I’d want my elementary school kid walking more than 2 or 3 blocks to school alone, but I damn sure wouldn’t think twice about walking a block or two to the bus stop in our suburban neighborhood and waiting with the rest of the riff-raff.

  19. I graduated in the early 90s. I never lived close enough to school to walk, but I seriously doubt my parents would have allowed it. My dad was way ahead of his time when it comes to paranoia. My little one just started school, and we also live way too far to walk. I wouldn’t even consider putting him on a bus, if that were an option. I work with high schoolers, and I hear about things that happen on buses these days. And in our area, buses are very overcrowded, kids sit 3 and 4 to a seat. I was allowed to play in my neighborhood without my mother hovering when I was 5, I crossed the street to play with friends. I don’t really let mine do that. I think about it, and then I think about Adam Walsh, Jaycee Duggard, and Elizabeth Smart. Rarities, yes, but I’m sure those statistics aren’t at all comforting to their families.

  20. madz1962 says:

    Walked to and from school with my sisters from first grade on. A mile each way in a changing neighborhood.

  21. Bill in WV says:

    If they would make it a FEDERAL LAW, not a state-by-state law, to execute El-creepos, there might not be as many creepos around. I say keep that chair red hot and a constant voltage connected. Oh yeah, and don’t wet the sponge.

  22. Jazzbone Swirly says:

    I would imagine that the kids of today are more likely to be harmed during a mass shooting in a school, movie theater, or grocery store parking lot (etc etc) than to be snatched by some creep while walking to and from school.

  23. Sigh. Sometimes I wonder why social services hasn’t come knocking. I know I walked at least a mile and a half to school in a lot of snow when I was 8 with a bunch of neighborhood kids because we didn’t want to bother waiting for the bus or we’d missed it. We had to walk out of our neighborhood about half a mile to even get to the stop. This was in 1972. My oldest is 27 and my youngest 13. It’s gone downhill. I was latchkey, they have all been latchkey. Where I live today, each student is picked up at the end of his or her driveway or, if the road is too narrow at the end of the road. Parents wait with their children. All parents. If the weather is the least bit questionable all parents wait with their children separately in cars with the engines running. I send my kid to the end of the driveway with an umbrella or more likely leave for work well before her bus is due and she’s home well before I am. She starts dinner. This began when she was 10 (the dinner starting). She aged out of after school care at 9. This summer she had a dog sitting job. She walked two miles each way twice a day on a very busy road. She walked on the grass. That’s 8 miles for $20 a day. I’ve been accused of child abuse or just short of it. She thinks she’s very strong and independent. I think she earned that $20. Lastly, she’s on a professional ballet track which means she commutes into a city outside of NYC four days a week and commutes into NYC on Saturdays. She doesn’t do this by herself yet but in a group of girls her age and slightly older (14 – 15) she walks the 6 blocks from grand central to the studio or takes the subway in the rain which is normal for NYC students. We don’t mention that part around here 🙂

  24. Everyone gets a trophy……

  25. In 1974, I allowed my son to walk 4 blocks beside a highway that ran through town, cross the highway at a light and walk another four blocks to school. I thought nothing of it even though I worried. We moved a few blocks and I had a baby, so I drove him and his sister to second grade and kindergarten at the same school.

    My greatest fear were the big trucks not stopping at the light. They knew to wait until the light turned red AND traffic stopped. Later, that new baby decided to walk home when she was in kindergarten, only four years old and never having walked it alone. I almost had a stroke. She had heard me admonish the two older children to not talk to strangers or familiar people, just keep walking. She heard all the things I had cautioned the older two (by now 9 and 7). She is actually the most independent of my three independent children.

    I gave the three of them the choice–walk to pool or walk home. They were smart and chose to walk to the pool

    When my son was ten, I drove him ten miles to a pond to fish. Neither he nor his friend had a watch. So, I told them to walk home and I would come back in four hours. If they were walking, I would pick them up. They were 2/3 of the way home…lol. But, they got to walk and do things no other mother in town would allow a child to do. Friends, neighbors, and relatives thought I careless. I was terrified.

  26. We moved to Dallas right before I started school. Me and my older brother had to take a city bus to school. We had never, ever taken a city bus anywhere. Our Mother walked us to the bus stop and saw to it that we got on the bus. We had no idea when to get off the bus, so we rode the entire round trip and the driver let us off at the bus stop where we got on the bus in the first place. We were so glad we had managed to escape a day of school. Ha! Our mother marched us right back to the same bus stop and told the bus driver where we were to get off. We were so disappointed. Once we moved back to our old stomping grounds, we rode the Yellow Hound to school every day (even through high school…ugh) and it picked us up at our driveway. I hated that damn bus. It was freezing in the winter and hot as hell in the summer time.

    I took my son to school and he car-pooled it home with another parent. He was a latch key kid (when there was no longer day care available at school) and did just fine. Once he got his drivers license, his Dad gave him an old Olds 98 that was a land yacht and he drove that to school. I told him we were going to put a ceiling fan in that car and us it as a living room. Those were good times. I was fortunate to have a good kid that never tried the thug life (that I know of).

  27. Not Oprah says:

    I grew up in the Cdn prairies. Walked big distances to school in -30C temps during winter storms by myself. I now have no feeling in my ears, my friends took the bus but I had to save that 25 cents.

    I don’t have kids but if I did, they’d be walking themselves to school to have their ‘independence’ but I’d be lurking around every corner… Things are scary these days.