Tag Archives: driving

Three Ways to Love on ALL the Kids Starting School

DSCF6396 They walk off this morning, bright backpacks on their backs and sweet-smelling lunchboxes in their hands (heaven knows those things won’t smell so good at Christmastime). Bouncing down the sidewalk with first-day enthusiasm, excited about new friends and new work. I trail behind, snapping pictures and wondering how it is that these kids who climbed into our bed every single night for years on end are suddenly so confident. So BIG.

We walk with them today, and probably will every day this year. It’s a walk they could easily manage, but you know – traffic.

And so, here’s what I hope the people who drive through my neighborhood this year do as they go on their way to drop off their own little babies-turned-big. (Last year I was one of those driving through, so I get the challenges.)

  • Hide their phone from themselves.
    We saw it already this morning, the good guy we know talking on his cell phone as he breezed through the crosswalk. We can do this. We can put our phones down, turn them off, set them to airplane mode, when we’re going somewhere. It feels like we’re cutting off an appendage, but you know how Jesus said that if a part of your body was getting you in trouble you’d be better off without it? This counts.
  • Slow down.
    I won’t belabor this because we’ve talked about it before and will again, but the human body is not designed for collisions with steel and fiberglass. An adult body considers anything above 20 mph a high speed. With kids, it’s even worse. For every single mile per hour faster we drive – yes, really, in increments that small – there’s a dramatic and measurable increase in the likelihood that a person hit by our car will die. We don’t want that. You don’t want that. We don’t want that for our communities, and we don’t want a kid who makes a mistake to pay for that mistake with his or her life. That’s not the kind of people we are. So let’s slow down.
  • Chill out.
    Some of the worst behavior I’ve ever seen in adult humans has been while waiting in the car line in the past couple years. Honking, yelling, cutting people off, swerving around the whole car line at ridiculous speeds while there are kids walking around – insane. One of the most frustrating pieces of driving is getting stuck in traffic we don’t expect, and we want to make up the time. But it’s not worth it. Let’s keep our cool.

    We can do this, and it’s worth it. Why? Because we believe in the beauty, the potential and the right-now awesomesauce of every kid starting their new school adventure this fall. We believe in the futures of the children pulling up in minivans and in the futures of the children who are skidding up on Huffys. We watch out for our kids – ALL of our kids – because as a community, that’s who we are.

  • We’re Not Even Trying

    The housing inspector was going to be at our house at 9:00 a.m. sharp today, and my husband was gone for an early meeting. That meant that I had to make sure all three girls were ready for their day and out the door at 7:40 a.m. Sticking to the timetable was crucial.

    In the swirl of


    I decided that it would make best sense to drive the three blocks to school today so I could do my other two drop-offs directly from there. For five minutes I sat in the driveway, pulling forward and back as walkers passed down the sidewalk, waiting for traffic to clear. Once we were finally on our way, we passed a dad walking his pink-fleeced little girl to school. For five more minutes I worked my minivan through the traffic snarl outside the school to get to the elementary school drop-off line. As I clicked open the door, the dad and his little girl walked up to the kindergarten classroom.

    For crying out loud, WE’RE NOT EVEN TRYING HERE. Walking this journey is obviously more efficient than driving, but some days it’s scary as hell. All those cars I was tangled in are in a HURRY, and trying to walk through an intersection with no crosswalk and no crossing guard and no anything at all but raw courage and a teeny flame of anger that we are so freaking uncivilized takes a lot of energy and a certain amount of disregard for one’s own mortality. And half the reason everyone’s in a car to begin with is that most of us don’t really want to contemplate death first thing on a Thursday morning, before we’ve even finished our morning coffee.

    I’m tired of pretending that this is working for us.

    I watched the video below first thing this morning. It’s an almost surreal foil to my maddening morning drop-off experience and I just can’t shake the contrast; it’s been on constant replay in my head all morning.

    It brings you to the bike route that passes beneath the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where you can take in Gothic architecture and modern art and street performers playing Bach on your way to school. Take a look at all the different types of people – especially families – on all the different bikes passing through. And imagine – imagine! – if there were anywhere in America where you could have this kind of experience during your morning commute.

    (If you don’t have a lot of time, consider clicking to the middle of the video – it’ll give you a good sense of what it’s about. You can read the original post by Mark Wagenbuur of Bicycle Dutch here.)

    The Netherlands hasn’t always been a beautiful place to get around by bike. In the 1970s, they were every bit as auto-centric as we are now. They decided that it wasn’t in their national interests to continue down that path and made a change.

    We can, too.

    But we have to try.

    So today I’m feeling all frustrated and ragey and like it is all futile, all of it, whatever it is. And so what I’m looking for from you is just this – your wisdom. What do YOU do when you feel like the mountain that stands before you is just too big?

    Friday Fun Day! December 14, 2012

    Cookies... yum!
    Cookies… yum!

    When was the last time you heard someone mention that they wanted to live in a more walkable neighborhood? For me, it was last night at the cookies-and-wine festivities I look forward to each year. A woman my age with four children (going on five) is living with her family in Eastown in Grand Rapids – when they were looking for houses, they just really wanted a walkable neighborhood. Eastown fit the bill, and their kids go to Potter’s House, a private Christian school, to make it work. (I LOVE this neighborhood by the way; I lived here right after college and think it’s one of the best in GR.) Another friend has just sold her house and will be moving further out of town so both she and her husband can be nearer to work – but is struggling to find a place that fits the bill without being out too far. “We really want to be close to downtown,” she said, “We still like to go down there a lot. But the schools…” It’s a real, multidisciplinary problem that our cities have. Are we listening?

    Along these lines, The U.S. Public Interest Research Group recently did a study indicating that Millennials just don’t want to drive as much as previous generations have. This isn’t necessarily a revelation, but while conventional wisdom has held that this has been because of the recession, driving is down even among those who ought to be able to afford a car. Zipcar corroborates this, though you’ll notice from this slideshow that it’s not just Millennials that are driving less – the trend seems to start with Gens X and Y already. I read these articles and wonder if we’ll wake up in thirty years, looking at our nine-lane roads and itty-bitty sidewalks, with a “what-were-we-THINKING” hangover.

    The cargo/family-transport bike search continues. I was recently tipped off to the Xtracycle, which is a kit you use to modify an existing bike frame to make it into a longtail bike. Eugene Bicyclist has a great entertaining post on how exactly that works. This video shows it in action. Wild!

    I’m inspired – I especially like the Hooptie, which holds the kids on the back… but I’d need it for three kids, and think a bucket bike might just be easier.

    Finally, and on a completely unrelated note: this life is such a gift. Completely insane on many, many days – spend ten minutes in my house and you’ll know that I GET this all too well – but a tremendous gift nonetheless. Head over to FreeSet if you feel like you need a little perspective in the middle of the insanity. Freeset is an NGO in India that buys women out of prostitution. I don’t have the words to express the power of this. A last-minute Christmas gift, perhaps?

    Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend. No matter where you are in your Christmas shopping, remember to take a few minutes to go for a walk or a ride. It’s always worth it!