A funny thing happened on the way to school...

One morning in Germany, when my daughter was in first grade, she arranged to walk to school with a classmate. Later that same day, I got a brief email from their teacher, letting me know they’d arrived late and suggesting I remind my daughter of the importance of punctuality. My daughter’s explanation: En route, she and her friend had discovered a dead ladybug on the sidewalk. They felt compelled to give the poor creature a decent burial – moment of silence included – and that made them late.

Ellen Kurpark
I love that story because, to me, it captures the essence of childhood (or, at least, of first-grade girls). I’d bet it would remind many American parents of their own adventures on the way to school; but the chances of such a story being repeated here today are approaching zero. In this small town, where people frequently tell me they moved here because it’s such a safe environment for kids, few children actually walk to the local elementary school on a regular basis, and most that do are accompanied by a parent.

So, what’s to prevent a caring parent from participating in an impromptu insect funeral? Nothing, but it wouldn’t be the same! Walking to and from school without parents (in a stream of neighborhood kids all doing the same) enabled our children to expand their comfort zone, develop some independence, and – what I love most of all – create their own stories, outside the structured environment of adults.

7 thoughts on “A funny thing happened on the way to school...”

  1. Your story reminds me of my little treasure hunter; my son used to love “Sperrmüll” (people can leave in front of their houses out-of-use things which are too big for the garbage to get picked up). Once I was waiting for him with lunch after school, but he was late. So I looked impatiently out of the window. Eventually, I saw a small person at the horizon with a huge old carpet on his tiny shoulders – making very slow progress….I must confess that his redecoration plans did not come to fruition because I refused this carpet to find a new home. More successful he was with other precious items from his way to school such as battered clown puppets and fake silver bowls…

    1. Ina, I remember that story well. The boys schlepped that rug together as far as my house, where I rejected it on the doorstep! So many neighborhood kids furnished their treehouses and forts with junk they picked up on the way home from school. 😉

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