By: Gwen Froh ‚Äď parent of a 20 year old son and a 23 year old daughter.
When your child asks for that last glass of water as you‚Äôre tucking her into bed, it‚Äôs hard to image her being grown and independent one day.¬† It happens, and for many of us who now have teens and young adults, it‚Äôs as though the Millennium Falcon transported our child into another universe at warp speed.¬† And, there‚Äôs no going back.
For those with kids in elementary school, it‚Äôs not too late to instill healthy habits that will matter later to your teen.¬† Here is a glimpse of what an older student and her parents say about the benefits of investing in active transportation at a young age ‚Ä¶ it pays off far more than one may realize.
When Jenna Neustaetter, Senior at Redwood High School and President of the Environmental Action Club, was asked what had a huge impact on her life, she reflects positively on her upbringing.¬†¬† ‚ÄúThe resiliency that I learn while growing up has given me the confidence in my own ability to carry myself through life.‚ÄĚ¬† Jenna eagerly looks forward to college next year with the self-assurance to be on her own.
Jenna admits it was tough at times because her parents typically didn‚Äôt ‚Äúgive-in‚ÄĚ to her desires for comfortable alternatives. ‚ÄúMy parents didn‚Äôt give us a choice about walking or biking to school.¬† They wanted us to learn responsibility and independence ‚Äď to become self sufficient.‚ÄĚ
Jenna‚Äôs parents, Arnie and Corinna Neustaetter, carried on the tradition of walking and biking to school from their own childhood. Overcoming the obstacles of hills, distance and traffic, they shared the belief that ‚Äúexposure to outdoor, physical challenges builds a child‚Äôs self-esteem and independence,‚ÄĚ and reinforced that belief with the daily active commute.
The Neustaetters took action. They formed a neighborhood walking group when Jenna was in Kindergarten and took turns bringing kids to school.¬† The Neustaetters biked together on weekends, and often put Jenna in the lead to prove she knew how to handle herself.¬† They were reassured that Marin was generally safe, a bike friendly place with good bike education and infrastructure.¬† By 4th grade, they let go and put their trust into their child.
Jenna continues to bike to school even though the ‚Äúrite of passage‚ÄĚ of driving typically influences most Juniors and Seniors to drive. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Marin Seniors drive to school, so Jenna clearly is in the minority.¬† ‚ÄúBiking to school feels more normal to me than driving. I love starting my day outside ‚Äď yes Its cold, but it wakes me up and I honestly believe it sets me up for better learning.‚ÄĚ¬† She adds, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm never in a bad mood when I arrive to school on my bike,‚ÄĚ and attributes increased teen stress to worrying about arriving to school on time to fight for parking spots; it‚Äôs not a fun way to start the day.
‚ÄúI pass parents biking to school with their kids, Jenna says. ‚ÄúWe smile at each other as though we share a secret happiness.‚ÄĚ