We were walking home from the bus stop, only a 100 metre walk but I was already whipping out the “Should we march? Skip? Jump?” in order to cajole my two year old tot along. After a bit of very slow marching, skipping and jumping she suggested “Let’s breakdance!” and proceeded to bust out an almost perfect Babyfreeze – that classic head-on-floor-pose youngsters do whenst having some hip-hoppity merriment. I was agape, impressed with her street cred (Crumbs! She’ll be tagging the playground next!) “Who taught you that, Ramona?!”-expecting to hear the name of one of our cool chums- Ramona replied “Nana.”
Breakdancing the rest of the way home, with this one single freeze, was, er, quite slow.
I’ve always been fairly happy with our “walks”- although they are less “one foot in front of the other” and more “OMG check out this cigarette butt! And let’s run up these steps! And swing this gate! And poke this crack! And stare at this dog poo for yonks! Dude, seriously LOOK AT IT!!!” We also always sniff every flower, trace every aeroplane trail and admire every shop window.
(The window of the betting shop at the end of the road, the one next to the drug-dealing pasty shop, has the BEST displays full of pictures of cartoony people and animals. So good are they that each character gets their own song, on Ramona’s insistence. If you have a local Coral you might recognise the likes of DJ Bob who likes corn on the cob and Leprechaun Bill who loves to dance on the window sill. We spend a long time admiring these folk on our way to the post box, warbling away down on the corner with the crackheads.)
We haven’t ever gotten anywhere fast, but I have been okay with that. In fact, for Ramona’s whole walking life I have cherished these singing, skippy, pokey dawdles. I have very purposefully chosen to help Ramona see that the journey is as important as the destination. In fact, my mum (the aforementioned break dancing Nana) on one such walk to the bus praised my patience and attitude. I explained that I always intentionally allow an extra half an hour to get to places, so that we can prioritise curiosity and explore our surroundings at Ramona’s pace. If we needed to go somewhere quickly we used a sling or a buggy happily.
But now… now I would like to be able to get to places. The shift is probably to do with having baby Juno on my front in a wrap and feeling like it would be easier to hold Ramona’s hand than push a buggy or wrap her on my back too. I also feel like she is reaching an age where it is good and appropriate for her to walk most places, both for her physical needs and autonomy. I really love the philosophy of Montessori who, amongst other things, was a firm believer in getting kids walking everywhere as soon as they are able.
Ramona IS able to walk everywhere, it would just take us one billion years to get anywhere.
So although I am not a fan of adults arbitrarily deciding something needs to change and then making children do something (parents do this alot and I think it is a bit unfair and quite possibly impacts the trust relationship, don’t you think?) I feel I need to help Ramona WALK- one foot in front of the other styles. And I want to do it without bribing or rewarding (I don’t think these are good for kids) and with as little cajoling/skipping/marching/breakdancing as possible. And also, high hopes I know, while still keeping the philosophy of curiosity and journeying alive.
I am wondering if having two different labels for our walks might work – explaining to Ramona before we set out that this is an “A-B walk” and that we just need to get there, or this is a “Dawdle walk” and we can take as many curiosity stops as we want.
Have you found a way to walk with your toddler without standing outside betting shops singing for too long? Have you read of any creative solutions to this? Would love to hear your sugestions. I will keep you posted on our two types of walk experiment…