Walking Home

Yesterday I read an article about a couple being investigated for child neglect for allowing their 10 and 6 year olds to walk home together from a neighborhood park. The couple defends their decision, saying they’re responsible parents who are teaching their children self-reliance and responsibility. For so many reasons, I side with the parents on this issue.

We live 0.4 miles from the kids’ school. Four very minor neighborhood intersections dot the route, and the one that is slightly busier than the others has a crossing guard.  On the walk to/from school we see people we know on the sidewalk and driving in cars.  This is our small corner of a big city, and I feel safe here.

I believe with every fiber of my body that my kids know the exact path to make it home at the end of their day. And, believe me, every time I have to wake a napping Ben to pick them up I wish they could just walk alone. I know Mack is still too young (he’s almost 5), but surely Evie the 1st grader could manage the walk. But, I am still unsure of when I will allow them to make the trek on their own.

Am I legitimately worried that something terrible would happen to them? No.

Am I legitimately worried that something terrible would happen to me? YES.

The way things are going lately, parents are under the microscope for every small infraction – perceived and real. Everyone is so quick to pass harsh judgement; no one assumes the best anymore. I honestly worry that DCFS would knock on my door if I let my nearly 7 year old walk home without me as her chaperone. I’m not sure what exactly I could be charged with, but the threat thought of it is enough to keep me shuttling back and forth.

When I was Evie’s age I walked nearly a mile home from school, crossing a very busy Arlington Heights Road along the way. I know most people over the age of 30 probably did the same. I have no recollection of this being a strange or scary activity – rather, it made me feel big and resourceful and responsible. Granted, one time I made a detour at my friend’s house without letting my mom know, but never did I find myself in an unsafe situation. Walking home without my parents was just another way to get from point A to point B.

So, I am left wondering: these days, how old is old enough to let kids walk to/from the park or school without an adult?

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1 Comment for this entry

  1. Erica says:

    I think about thei a lot. My son is only 4 but we live in a neighborhood full of kids who are always riding bikes and out in the streets. At a certain point they push boundaries and can move a bit farther from home. I feel, in my opinion, viewing other people’s kids, that by 6-7 kids start to realize more of their surroundings and could start to venture a bit further. 8-9 years definitely starting to be able to handle a four block walk on their own. By 11 or 12 they must be able to take a walk or bike ride home, right? I was walking farther than that at that time . . . . but I guess that was another time.

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