Tuesday, November 18, 2008


For today's post,  I've got two stories that happened within the last month and involved walking.

First, my family participated in the annual Crop Walk for Hunger a while back, sponsored by my church in New Albany.  I got some generous pledge donations from friends and we prepared to walk with other from our church and other churches in the surrounding area. The motivations for doing this were: a) it's a simple way to help the disadvantaged, b) it reinforces to the kids the idea that we need to spread the wealth (please note that this last phrase was chosen very specifically) to help those that need helping, c) it provides us necessary exercise that comes in very short supply, d) the walking route went right past our neighborhood.

So, all good reasons. But there were important problems to be solved as well. First, to participate as a family, Hannah would be involved. But that's not a real problem. She can ride in luxury in her stroller. (As you will later learn, she had the best situation of all of us.) But, Sarah and Grace, unaccustomed as they are to walking extensive miles of distance, would need some thinking about. I figured I had a good plan. They could ride their bikes. It would help them grow more proficient on their bicycles and help them keep up with the rest of the crowd. Brilliant.

So, after church on the designated day we drove home, had a quick lunch and packed up our walking provisions. We got water bottles for the girls and put them in their bicycle baskets. They also got granola bars to snack on when they grew hungry. Lynda and I would share a water bottle and Hannah was ready with her own drink. We loaded the van with the bikes, the stroller, and drove down the block to the local church's starting point.

The complete walk was several miles in length, and I had no illusions that even under my current plan we could handle the entire route. But there was a halfway cutoff that split the trek in half. So, we had our plan, we gathered, said hello to our friends, said a quick prayer, and gathered outside with the celebrity walker--one of the news anchors for a Columbus TV channel. (She and her kids led us down the route for a block or so before peeling off and going on her way.)

The crowd hit the sidewalk and started . . . that's right . . . walking. But it quickly became clear that my bike plan for the kids was in trouble. If we were walking in the street (like the big fancy March of Dimes walk where thousands participate) it would have been okay. But our smaller hunger walk doesn't have the necessary charity cred, so we were on the regular old sidewalk. Sidewalk + crowd + girls on bikes = problem. They've got no wiggle room and they can't keep up their speed. 

So, the bikes were a bust. Lynda agreed that, unfortunately, the girls would have to hoof it. A bit angrily, I wheeled the bikes back to the van. Unfortunately, here is where (I think, anyway) more mistakes were made. 

Lynda, bless her heart, knew that I was frustrated. So, she held back the family so I wouldn't be alone. But in doing so, she isolated us from the group. Now we were just a family alone trodding a block-and-a-half behind the mass of walkers and our friends. I wanted her to keep the girls up with the group, to help them stay distracted from the fact that they now had to walk. But it was too late. The crowd was moving on and we were alone.

Sure enough, the complaints started. "My feet hurt." "How much longer are we walking?" "I'm tired." And on, and on, and on. And I'm telling you we weren't even CLOSE to the 1/4 point. And this was already going. By now I was REALLY frustrated. And I knew it wouldn't end. So, I threw down the gauntlet and told everyone to stop. I told them to sit down in the shade and wait. I turned around, retraced my steps (fuming and cursing and muttering every step of the way--exactly the mindset you're supposed to have on a beautiful charity-based Sunday, right) and drove the van back to them.

We went home and our walk was over.

It was a very disappointing hour or so of my parenting life. Looking back on it several weeks later, I recognize that I expected too much out of the girls. Heck, even ON bikes, we likely couldn't have completed the entire thing and maybe not even the half walk. It made me question my kids fitness level and their expectations about exertion. It just frustrated the Hell out of me.

But our hearts were in the right place. And maybe, with better foreknowledge, we can approach it differently and with a more positive outcome next year. As I tell the girls all the time, truly learning something doesn't mean avoiding mistakes, but recognizing what a mistake is and avoiding doing it again.


Oh, the other walking story?

That's another post, on another day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dave, it has happened to the best of us. I remember a similar incident a couple years ago. As is often the case on beautiful Sundays, on the way home from church I hatched the idea of a family bike ride down at the greenway. Virginia went along with the idea and the girls begrudgingly agreed.

So I started the chore of getting all 4 bikes strapped on the rack on back of the SUV so we could schlep the 1 1/2 mile drive to the greenway. (We can't pedal down there because of about 500 feet of roadway which has no sidewalk - any father leading a family bike ride on that particular section of Kimball Bridge Road should be picked up by the DFACS paddy wagon). In a perfect scenario, it takes about 15 minutes to get the bike rack installed, all the gear and water bottles prepared, and the bikes loaded and secured. But with all 4 bikes this time and no willing assistants, the rack wasn't quite big enough, so I had to do and re-do it a couple times. After about 25-30 minutes of cursing and laboring in the ever-increasing heat I finally was ready to go.

I went in to gather the troops but by that time the begrudging agreement had deteriorated into, at best, indifference, and at worst, hostility and resentment. After a few minutes of 2-way cajoling, bargaining, and complaining, my fuse finished its slow burn and I decided that I didn't need the aggravation - so I decided that I would just go enjoy my own ride without the rest of them. So I stormed out, ripped 3 of the 4 bikes off the car, and got ready to go on my way. Then the girls saw that I was mad and said, "OK, Dad, we can still go if you want to". I said no thanks and went on my way.

As far as I can remember, we all enjoyed our afternoon much better after the plan was revised. The moral being, if there is one: sometimes you just can't force them into doing the right thing. You just have to hope that you get it right by accident sometimes.

And here's an epilogue for you. This year on my Fathers' Day card (which as you know is typically presented on a Sunday morning in June) Julia had written under her signature, "No Greenway Please". :-).