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Kid transport and parental capitulation

Alex Miller

Forget about what to do about transportation problems on I-70: How do I convince my two middle-schoolers that they’re fully capable of walking a couple hundred yards to school in the morning?It’s one of those instances where I’ve found myself intoning – without really meaning to – one of those annoying parentalisms that starts with “when I was your age … ” and usually ends with the kids rolling their eyes and, perhaps, barfing on the floor.But seriously, people, when I was a kid, I walked or rode my bike everywhere, probably within a 5-10 mile radius. Granted, a good part of the reason for my self-locomotion (and that of my friends) was that we didn’t want our moms to have any idea where we were going or what we were doing. That would’ve sounded like this:”Mom, can you give me and my friends a lift to the movie theatre?””Sure. What movie are you going to see?””No movie. Just hanging out behind the place.””Doing what?”(blank look)So we walked, or rode our bikes. And we fielded questions later with the kind of shoulder-shrugging stonewalling technique teenagers have had down pat since Grog tried to hide his participation in the rock fight.But is it me, or do kids have less to hide these days? For our 12-year-old daughter, the biggest act of rebellion lately was a tiny fib to disguise the fact that she wasn’t at the rec center but, rather, at Target shopping with her friends. Meanwhile, the older boys’ indiscretions revolve around too much Playstation and over-fixation on high grades.When I think back to the things I was doing on suburban Long Island at age 14, I want to hand out halos to my kids. But even if they’re being all goody two-shoes (is that still a viable expression?), I still think they should walk whenever possible. Exercise, fresh air, a sense of independence and all that.Times, though, have apparently changed. I feel like a vehicular Scrooge who’s outnumbered and overruled at every turn. If I’m foolish enough to suggest the walking or biking option, they look at me as if I just suggested they trap their own food for dinner. And it’s hard to hold one’s ground when the imploring looks so firmly slide the scales of justice over to their side (and it gets worse when the girls start wearing eye makeup).I know I’m not alone. I see the line of cars every morning at the middle school, some of them from our neighborhood that is, literally, right across the street from the school. We all have the same dumb look on our faces, like people standing in line for lottery tickets or queuing up for the dessert table: We know we shouldn’t be there, but we can’t help it. Look at the little darlings! Who would want to make them walk in these sub-freezing temperatures!Never mind that half of them are wearing shorts in winter, jackets unzipped, ankle socks and Vans instead of snow boots. I tell my kids they might not mind walking so much (it’s a seven-minute trek, by my reckoning) if they dressed properly, but then I discover that dressing properly isn’t really so cool. And maybe it wasn’t when I was that age, either. In high school, I think I made my way through entire Summit County winters wearing only a denim jacket.Duh.But my kids have a couple of things on their side, my grousing notwithstanding. For one, even though it’s a short ride, we usually manage to find some things to talk about and have a few laughs. For another, I’m a morning person, so I’ve been up for hours anyway. And finally, since I have to drive the 4-year-old to preschool later anyway, I have the big kids warm up and scrape the car, thus getting it all ready for my next trip.Maximizing the slave labor – now that’s effective parenting!Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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