Tuesday, July 07, 2009

walk of life

It's 10:32 pm, Boston time. I'm on the 15th floor of a waterfront hotel, listening to my three youngest kids squirm and giggle and generally avoid sleeping. I'm a little bit irritated, and pretending to be stern and grumpy, but I'll cut them some slack. It's been a long day. As we got off the plane at Logan the flight attendant said to me, "they win the award for best-behaved kids." And it was true: they were quiet, stayed in their seats, ate their snacks, drank their Sprites, didn't fuss. Of course it was JetBlue so all they had to do was plug into their headphone jacks and watch CartoonNetwork for three hours (holy crap do I ever love that airline). Easy. But my kids get this comment a lot.

Once we checked in, I dragged them on a hike to the Union Oyster House. We took the long way, almost two miles, meandering through Downtown Crossing and down Tremont Street. They bitched a tiny bit on the way there, but mostly they were good spirited about it. After dinner we walked directly back, about a mile, and they were cheerful. Playful, even.

Here's the thing: these kids are five, and five, and six. They're little. That's a lot of travel and a lot of walking. But I knew they could handle it. And furthermore, maybe I'm some kind of weird, old fashioned mother, but I think walking a little bit farther than you want to, being asked to do a little bit more than you were expecting to do, I think these things are character building.

I don't push my kids so hard that they break, but I push them hard enough so they feel the bend, and stretch a little. I let them be uncomfortable. It's what my parents did for me when they sent me away to summer camp when I was eight. I learned to walk a long, long trail with a heavy weight on my back. I learned that blisters hurt, but they healed. I learned how to carry myself, and my own weight.

Plus, it was a nice evening. Why take a cab?

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