Monday, November 23, 2009

Walk, Don't Run

Affirmation that my husband and I had made the right choice to stay in the city came during the weeks immediately following our son's birth. During my six week recovery period, daily exercise was limited to short constitutionals in the neighborhood. I ventured out for 30 minutes to an hour with baby in stroller and found myself rediscovering our neighborhood anew from a Mom's point of view.

I set goals of finding parks, outdoor cafes, and other quiet resting places for a self-conscious first-time mother with a squawking infant and cumbersome stroller to sequester herself. But to my amazement, I had seemingly joined a new social club. Suddenly, complete strangers were stopping me on the street asking about the baby. Some of these folks, like the fellow often grabbing a smoke and exchanging barbs with fellow residents of a homeless shelter down the block, asks about our son regularly. "How's the little man doing today? How old is he now? Alright, alright." We were also befriended by other stay-at-home Moms and Dads, especially at the playground, as well as grandparents, nannies and other neighbors simply interested in the newest baby in their midst. I was perplexed by but immensely grateful for the generous morning commuters waiting at the Metro bus stop outside our apartment building who rushed to hold our front door as I fumbled to get the stroller inside. And I was taken aback and humbled again by the bagger at the grocery store who offered to carry my groceries. Who knew city people could be so nice? I resolved to pay it forward somehow.

On one particularly hectic but sunny day, I found myself desperate for a restorative dose of Vitamin D and fresh air. I knew we wouldn't get far by the time I changed another Huggies, organized the baby bag, and packed my son into his infant carrier. So instead, we left all the accouterments behind and went on a "nature walk" as I carried him down a tree-lined residential street adjacent to our building. I stopped to point out the first daffodils and to give him an opportunity to experience the feel of waxy leaves and grass through his fingertips. It was one of our shortest but most memorable walks to date.

Leisurely afternoons, I actually took time to stop and read the informative illustrated signs along one of the District's many wonderful Cultural Tourism DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails. The trails are a system of self-guided walking tours marked with signs that tell stories of Washington’s historic neighborhoods.

When I felt impatient to shed both the baby fat and the maternity clothes, a little retail therapy seemed like just the ticket until I reminded myself that I was not bringing in a paycheck while on family leave. Determined to stick to a budget, I found sidewalk window shopping and trips to the library squashed the pesty consumerism bug. A power walk up the steep incline of the National Zoological Park's Olmstead Walk increased my heart rate and provided our only child with more socialization opportunities. The sites and sounds of the wildlife and zoo visitors provide great topics for conversation, especially when the parent is the only one doing all the talking. And perhaps mostly importantly, entrance to the zoo is FREE!

Washington, DC is a pedestrian-friendly place to live, but soon-to-be parents often flee the city for the suburbs where commuting by cars is a must and sidewalks are few. Each time I take my son on another walk here, the challenges of raising a child in the city seem at least temporarily to fade.

Want to share your favorite place in Washington DC to walk with kids? Where do you go for a stroll on rainy or cold days? Let us know. Please submit a comment!


  1. "You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again." ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762

    AS is learning so much as he explores his world. I think in many ways, being artful, is simply paying attention, and babies pay attention with their whole being - eyes, ears, fingers, noses, spirits. Little kids are the ultimate artists. So cool that you guys have the opportunity to be so busy together.

  2. I have also heard creativity described as the ability to see things in a new way. I think this is a skill, like drawing, that can be fostered in children from a young age and help them succeed in all aspects of life. Drawing is a visual language that children begin to use before they can adequately communicate verbally. Unfortunately when they enter school emphasis is placed more on the development of reading and writing, and many children begin to feel that they are not artists. I argue that all children have the capability of being artists (creative thinkers) just as they have the capability to learn to read and write.

  3. Poets and poetry buffs, there is a free walking tour in DC for you! Check it out:



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