Friday, March 05, 2010


Most milestones take us by surprise, though none usually happen without warning. When Freddy took her first steps, we knew it was something she'd been working up to for a while, ever since she started cruising the furniture, or making failed to attempts to launch herself into the centre of the room. Still when it finally happened, the surprised delight was genuine. I remember going to bed that night buzzing with the possibilities. O brave new world.

This morning Fred asked if she could walk to school by herself. She is six, seven next month. Martin began walking to and from school alone in second term of prep. I am not sure, exactly, how old I was, though I was walking or catching the bus with my sister in prep and I know for sure by the time I was eight I was walking alone and I had to cross two main roads, and a couple of smaller ones. Again this was not entirely unexpected, a few times this year Fred has run so far ahead of me and Una that she may as well have been on her own.

Fred's route involves two road crossings. The first is a small road, not busy but cars can come down quite quickly, and this road is the reason I said no this morning, though she is a careful crosser, and I no longer hold her hand, encouraging her to do in her own time. The second crossing is with a crossing guard.

Apart from the roads, there's no other big risks. It's a clear route, one I know Fred wouldn't deviate from. There's a few other kids who walk, enough to look out for each other. And it's not far, maybe 1km, perhaps even a little less.

This morning after we'd crossed the first road, and walked a little way together she latched herself onto two slightly bigger boys, grade threes perhaps. They were discussing the finer points of The Force, and benevolently ignored her.

And suddenly I thought, You know what? She's fine. She's so fine. And I said 'Fred? Fred? Freddy?' and she pretended not to hear me because you know, she was with the big boys. And I said 'Freddy, will you be right from here?' and she nodded and I kissed her, and I watched her walk away.

Thirty seconds later, first bell went and Fred took off at a run over the crest of the hill and disappeared from view. The boys walked a few more lazy steps and then took off after her. (In this case I think Fred was a good influence.) Martin driving past after dropping Una off at her creche beeped-beeped his horn as Fred ran up the slip road towards the school. He beamed at me as he drove past. I was still watching the empty road, I turned away before I saw her cross the road.

But she would have made it inside for second bell, just in time.


  1. Anonymous2:15 PM


  2. Oh Penn. Reading that my heart leap. Were going through the same thing at the moment with Effie. She's seven now and wants to start walking by herself. The school is 900m from our house and all she has to do is walk in a straight line. But something inside hates the thought of letting go. Maybe it's the fact that once she takes that next step it's another step closer to be independant. Maybe I should let her do it too.

  3. My nieces live 200m from their school but only recently has my sister succumbed to just standing on the front lawn watching them on their way. Although I think secretly the younger two like it better when mum walks them.

    Also their is something when you write about your children that reminds me of reading Enid Blyton books when I was younger. I can just imagine them going on similar adventures up the faraway tree and to the magical lands at the top.

  4. Laurie11:41 PM

    It is wonderful that you live in a place where you feel comfortable enough to let your 6-almost 7-year old cross 2 streets to school. Living in a nation of "helicopter parents", it would be extremely rare for a child that age to walk to school alone -- even in the safest of safe suburbs where I live. Fred will be a stronger and surer child being allowed to take these steps on her own.

  5. It happened to me when one was in prep and the other grade two.I had a relapse of my CFS and couldn't make the distance to the school. Penni,your evocative writing has brought back a wash of memories and feelings!

  6. Oh dear. Its all moving too quickly. Thank heavens five km is too far to send my little poppet on his own. Not that he wants to yet.