Starting School

I was told this would happen.  While wearing my wee infant son strapped to my chest, kind strangers would take a look at my unkempt hair and flushed cheeks and tell me that -poof- not only would he eventually sleep through the night, be toilet trained, not run into traffic but that he would be going to school. Once that starts, they warned wistfully, watch out, you will miss having all this time with him. You will miss the diapers and even the tantrums.

Last week my son began a two-week process of gradual entry into kindergarten. And it continues to strike me, the push-pull between wanting to support his independence and self-efficacy and wanting to wrap him up in my arms and keep him home forever with me. When he hugged me on his second day and didn’t let go, I was this close to plonking down on the reading rug next to a crew of excited kids in nametags and staying the day or at least until recess.  But lucky for him, I ‘parented up’ and encouraged him and left.

So as my son goes through this uncomfortable, exciting and challenging transition to school, (scratch that, as my son and I go through it), it’s not lost on me that this is also a chance for growth and an opportunity to form some new, healthier routines for our family.

Thanks to my job, I’ve been introduced to the latest evidence-based research on healthy living in the early years through innovative programs like Appetite to Play (learning about physical literacy, tips on how to handle picky-eating and simple games that can make transitions fun). And through organizations like DASH BC and HASTe BC, I’ve learned about comprehensive school health and active school travel such as ‘walking school buses or bicycle trains’, which can boost physical activity levels for youth.   According to the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, 65% of kids ages 5-17 are not reaching the recommended activity levels as outlined in the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines.  Plus, the ParticipACTION report card highlights that “Canadian kids need to move more to boost their brain health.” Walking or biking to school will help our kids learn better and better cope with the challenges being new to school brings.

During the previous four years, my son has been driven to and from his daycare, after which I take transit. But with all the changes this new school year is bringing, (plus being a little closer in proximity), we’ve made a switch and are now walking to school. Maybe this can be a way to claw back a little more time with him, while being more active. Maybe this walk to school can help him (and me!) as he sorts out all the newness and struggles or at least distract him with squirrels, garbage trucks and friends we meet on the street.

When we walk, him in his new Velcro-only sneakers, myself in ‘run-to-the-bus-capable’ work shoes, it really feels like we’re taking these new and important steps together. My son is getting to know our neighbhourhood in a way that he doesn’t while strapped in a car and I feel more connected to the community and to my son. It’s true that during this transition there are moments when I really do miss the diapers but walking together feels like we’re making some new moments, healthy ones that will benefit us physically and emotionally for a long time.

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