Walking

My children dislike walking. Or so they tell me. It’s not that they’d rather be sitting. Far from it. In fact my eldest struggles to maintain a seated position whilst eating his dinner. With each mouthful, he’ll slowly raise himself higher in the chair, subtlety passing through the hovering stage, until you suddenly become aware that he is now standing – chair neglected and abandoned beside him. Neither can you say that they don’t like to walk because it requires too much physical exertion. Maybe this might apply to myself or their Grandmother – but for them, running is preferable to walking. I’m fairly sure when they were tiny they went straight from crawling to running (maybe taking the odd step or two somewhere in the middle).

Trying to walk even a short distance with them can be catastrophic if I refer to it as ‘walking’. They start by dragging their feet, then begin sitting down on the pavement every two metres or so (because they’ve run out of breath apparently). Sometimes they even deem it necessary to cling to the back of my coat and stop moving their feet, in the hope that mummy will use her ‘levitation’ superpower to get the big ones up the hill without actually lifting them, whilst simultaneously pushing youngest son in his pram. By the end of the walk, their method of moving forwards can only be described as resembling something out of Monty Python’s ministry of silly walks. Therefore, if we need to go for a short walk to actually get somewhere (especially if we have a certain time at which we need to arrive) we can usually be found complete with transport. Their reliance on the scooters has decreased slightly now they can ride their bikes. If wheels are not a viable option, there are a number of tactics I use to get them on the move. Here are my top five:

1) Walking along a wall or painted line on the pavement.

2) Collecting something along the way – usually daisies or some other form of interesting looking weed.

3) Turning it into a race against Mummy. Somehow Mummy always seems to lose.

4) Counting lampposts or orange things between the start point and the destination.

5) Who can be first to spot the….? Choose an object that isn’t actually there to maximise distance covered.

This is why if we’re going for a longer walk I usually use the term ‘adventure’ or ‘exploration’. I remember a time before the arrival (or invention) of youngest son when they walked over three kilometres (at the ages of 2 and 4), armed only with a selection of croissants to refuel. We were going all morning, past sheep, over stiles, along hilly paths, and through woods. They loved it. Not sure what exactly they thought they were doing – maybe the term ‘walking’ only applies if you’re on a pavement.

Crowded places

Another interesting rule I’ve discovered, which applies to my children, is that the amount they play up in public places is directly proportional to how crowded a location is. Take them to a lovely, secluded place and they are amazing. However in amongst a packed audience, within a relatively quiet room and my bigger two boys rival race cars – both with the speed at which they run and the Diesel engine type noises they make whilst doing so.

My timing for school pick up was not great last Friday. The ‘grown up kids’ junior school (next to eldest boy’s school) finishes exactly 5 minutes later. Eldest boy was last to come out and then proceeded to greet youngest boy with a high pitched squeal that I’m pretty sure could only be detected by bat sonar, unless you happened to be stood right beside it – which unfortunately I was. What I’ve neglected to mention, is that when your primary concern is to entertain your baby brother with howling noises, you fail to notice your book bag is trailing through an unfortunately positioned puddle. So by the time I’d rescued aforementioned book bag and made it across the playground, it was approximately 4 mins and 58 seconds later.

We reached the other school just as the doors opened and a swarm of children came flooding out. We had a line of parents on our right, incoming children on the left and families eager to make a quick getaway behind us. It was at this point I became aware that middle boy had stopped walking and was attaching himself to my right leg. I had no idea why and limited time to extract any form of complex reasoning from him on the subject. I took his hand and coaxed him onward. I was fully conscious that if I played the the wrong move here, our little family was likely to be solely responsible for causing traffic tailbacks longer than those found on the M27 at rush hour. We successfully moved forward about 5 foot before he attempted a similar manoeuvre, losing his footing and falling as he did so. I helped him up but we were going nowhere, the crowd seemed to be getting larger, the queue of people waiting to pass us seemed to be getting longer and eldest son seemed to be disappearing further into the distance. It was at this point that a lady I’d never spoken to before, until that point known only as ‘the lady with the long orange coat’, intervened and offered to push youngest son in his pram for me so I could carry middle son. For this, I am very grateful to her. A few seconds later, eldest son reappeared pushing his brother’s scooter for him. On sight of it, middle child seemed completely rejuvenated and was now capable of walking on his own again. Crisis averted with the help of a kind stranger.

Of course, I was then faced with the difficulty of continuing to walk the same direction as this helpful lady for the next two corners – at a ridiculously slow speed – unable to ask to pass her. This was partially as I felt I was now forever in her debt and saying “Excuse me” as well would be asking far too much. Primarily though, if we had gone on ahead, I would have felt like I needed to sustain ‘overtaking speed’ and I couldn’t handle the embarrassment if my boys decided to randomly stop again.

Communication methods

Middle son is more than capable of using words to tell me something. However, in addition to English he is also fluent in a second language. I’m yet to establish a name for it, but it basically involves obstructing Mummy in some way. This morning he strolled into my room. I asked him “How was your night?” and he responded by lying down on the floor in front of me.

This occurs frequently. Similar happened as we were coming through the front door yesterday. I requested that he took his shoes off and he promptly lay across the top step, demonstrating some kind of ‘planking’ move. He will vary it slightly depending what he wants to say. Sometimes there will be a leg in the air: other times he’ll position his arm at a peculiar angle – rivalling something from a zombie movie.

Of course there’s more to it than simply lying in front of me. For really urgent matters, he will elect to try and lie on me (preferably my feet). If I’m moving at the time, he decides the best course of action is to intercept my projected walking path. If I happen to be pushing littlest son in the pram when an vital matter occurs, then a rather complex manoeuvre is required. He stands on the wheel itself, allowing an abrupt stop to our journey and ensuring he has my full attention. It is at this point that he is able to share that important information with the whole family, that information he was so concerned we might miss if he’d just mentioned it casually in conversation. For those reading also keen to find out the message on this occasion: there was a grass on shoe.

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