Wednesday, 15 February 2012
The worst daddy in the world
Every morning, in term time, I force my children to walk the fifteen minute walk to school, come rain or shine, or, in the last month, snow and ice. Why, Daddy, why? Why can't we just drive?
It is true that driving them to school would make my morning much more complicated - I'd have to drive to school, drive back again, then retrace my steps to walk into work. But, it's also true that I really don't want to drive to school. On the best mornings, we walk to school singing and skipping (well, they skip, I walk), we tell stories and it's just like the Waltons. Other days, it takes a lot of strength not to give in, get in the car and just drive. So, why don't I?
The girls are very good about turning lights off in the house, and are quite quick to tell me if I forget. They tell me, from discussions at school, about the melting polar ice caps and the effect on polar bears. And they've started to get the hang of buying local (or at least British), and they've understood Fairtrade for a long time. But by and large, these are the easy things, they don't affect them directly too much. The school walk does. It's hard on little legs, especially when it's cold and wet - maybe I am the worst daddy in the world?
It's a difficult balancing act, being a parent. You want to make life easy for your children as much as possible, shield them from the worst that the world can throw at them. At the same time, you want to inculcate them with the values that you think are important. That's part of being a parent too. I've explained that turning lights off has value in itself, but it's a drop in the ocean compared to driving the car to school each day. But to such small children, it's difficult to explain causes and effects. What about the whole range of issues, from air travel to "stuff" - I've written before about the amount of stuff that kids consume - there are whole industries dedicated to getting parents to part with their money on behalf of their kids.
We try and throw up barriers around them - we don't have commercial TV at home, we buy most of their clothes second-hand and we try and spend as much time with them as possible. Doing stuff instead of buying stuff. But it's not easy, and it's going to get harder as they get older and their range of influences gets wider.
So, I walk to school with them rather than drive, and I explain to them why. Sometimes I talk about polar bears and sometimes I just say "that's what we do in our family, we walk to school". I want them to think about how other people are treated, to know that it's important to look out for the environment around them and for people other than themselves. I can't tell them everything all at once, they're too young to take it in, but being a parent is a slow, step-by-step process that you never stop working on.