"See Mom? I told you we could go that way!"
His mother, eyebrows raised in sudden horror, frowned, "Yes, you're right, I guess. It does look like we could walk that way."
"It's a short-cut" the boy said happily, looking as though he was about to head off the long alley way himself.
"I said you were right, you don't have to show me anymore" she said, clearly a bit put off that:
1) her 4 year old son seemed to know the city better than she did and
2) her son's daycare clearly took him down this long, dark, sketchy back alley frequently enough for him to know the way.
As I walked past them I could see the boy continuing to attempt to pull his mother into the dark alley, which I am sure is full of lots of fascinating objects any 4 year old would love. If he'd been 15 years older and not calling her mom I would have called 911.
My own school walk today was with three-four year olds. Being older they don't hold a rope, but instead each grab a partner and walk in pairs down the sidewalks. The wicked head of the last two weeks has let up somewhat, but the result seems to just make the children cranky. I suppose last week they were too hot to do anything but comply. Of course, it is also a full moon...
The destination of our walk this morning was a new playground. I've quickly learned that the secret to surviving the day in daycare is to known exactly where all the playgrounds in the city are, and just how far a walk it is to get there, and exactly how much shade it will offer you once you arrive. Despite the promise of a new destination, the children melted when they realized we were taking a different route. Tears and anguish followed us down the new path, most of the children uncomfortable with a change in routine. Once we arrived, however, at the brightly painted brand new playground, all sense of uneasiness lifted and they took off to explore the new slides, monkey bars, and swings.
The walk back, when everyone knew exactly where we were going, everything became alive again. Every bush needed to be picked, every curb needed to be pranced upon as though it was a balance beam, every baby stroller needed to be peered into despite the mothers' disapproving looks. Every vehicle identified in detail- "Dump truck!" "Fed-Ex Delivery Truck" "McDonalds Ice Cream truck" "Metro Bus". The helicopter passing overhead sited a whole series of airplane stories, and we walked the last block hearing about both real and imaginary trips on airplanes- whether to visit Grandma in California, or to visit Dora the Explorer in Hawaii. As we turned the corner to walk back to school I tried to ignore the snorts of laughter coming from the men leaning on a fence who clearly overheard the detailed description of the airplane bathroom I was receiving from a friend.