Carly Flynn

Grew up in a beau­ti­ful lake­side town where get­ting dropped off at school wasn’t an op­tion.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

Rain or shine, we’d walk. Oc­ca­sion­ally, if there were no punc­tures, we’d bike. I can’t re­mem­ber at what age I started mak­ing the 30-minute trek from home but I do re­call be­ing quite young.

Mumkept an eye on my progress and used to phone a friend who lived on the other side of a fre­quently used walk­way to make sure I’d got through safely. Mum­most likely had a sleep­ing baby or two at home so I, as the ‘‘big kid’’ of the fam­ily, paved the way for the rest of us.

One day I didn’t make it through as usual with my com­pan­ion and Mum’s friend dou­bled back to find us paral­ysed from the per­ceived dan­ger of hav­ing to walk past a weta.

But such dra­mas were rare and I’d mer­rily col­lect friends along the way, chat to neigh­bours, eat my lunch well be­fore time and even­tu­ally make it to my school be­fore the bell.

It was part of grow­ing up in the mid 1980’s. It sounds idyl­lic I know, but Stranger Dan­ger was well drummed into us. Per­haps even more so than now. Napier 14-year-old Kirsa Jensen went miss­ing in 1983 and 6-year-old Teresa Cor­mack was kid­napped off a Napier street and mur­dered in 1987, so our par­ents and school were vig­i­lant about our safety.

When I think about it now, that 30-minute walk prob­a­bly helped me gear up for school af­ter a busy fam­ily of five break­fast in the morn­ing, and compartmentalise the day in my head on the way home.

So when my daugh­ter was ap­proach­ing school age mid last year, I was in­tent on recre­at­ing that walk­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for her, al­beit in a big busy city, far re­moved ge­o­graph­i­cally and light years away from the life of 1980s small town New Zealand.

To­day’s par­ents are busier in dif­fer­ent ways and it’s not al­ways pos­si­ble to walk to school or in­deed live within a safe walk­ing dis­tance. Which is why a walk­ing school bus is such a great op­tion.

It’s an or­gan­ised route man­aged by the schools and vol­un­teers with sup­port from lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. Par­ents and care­givers take turns ‘‘driv­ing’’ the bus each day of the week.

On our route we get to know the other kids, and par­ents, teach the chil­dren road rules and safety and, I reckon, hear a bit more about their days on the way home as we walk and talk than if we

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