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Walking into Parenting

Walking into Parenting

As a dad of two girls, I’ve rarely had the advantage of accidental parenting. That’s because I came at this thing with some rather hefty handicaps: I grew up surrounded by boys in a family that’s only time together involved staring at the TV and eating microwave dinners.

Yet God, in His great sense of providential humor, gave me two pink-loving, doll-swaddling, nail-painting ballerinas.

As you might imagine, there have been some bumps along the way. Taking out ponytail holders, for example. Who knew how much of an art that is. And the proper way for a stuffed monkey to act at a tea party? Yeah, that’s a learned skill, too. (Hint: Think British.)

But I haven’t had to relearn or bumble through everything. In fact, you could say that I traipsed my way into something that proved quite the powerful parenting tool. And all I had to do was walk.

Pedestrian Power

My wife and I have enjoyed casual strolls since before we got married. The sweltering days of the American South give way to not-quite-so-sweltering evenings. You just have to escape the air conditioner for a moment, if for no other reason than to appreciate it more when you drip your way back into the house later.

But there’s more to walks than simply pounding the pavement, and that has become even clearer now that we push (or sometimes drag) the girls along. God said training children while walking pays off (Deuteronomy 6:7), and He’s right. Here’s how it has for us:

Family Time – Walking has the curious effect of being slow. You don’t get somewhere quickly. You don’t zip by landmarks and pump up the radio to drown out squabbles in the backseat. No, you move slowly down the street. And as you’re moving slowly, you start to notice the people walking with you. And as you notice the people walking with you, you start talking to them about their days and lives. Suddenly, this strange beast called laughter pops out. It’s quite safe, but definitely contagious.

Conversation – Kids don’t always have an innate sense about how to have a conversation. Ours didn’t. They’d stare blankly when people asked them how they were. So, during our walks, my wife and I started by modeling a conversation for them, explaining how there’s a give and take. Then, we started involving them in the process. We’re still showing them how a simple “yes” or “no” can bring the whole thing to a screeching halt. But our walks mean plenty of time to practice.

Discovery – We’re blessed to live in the country, which means our walks often include the flurry of deer charging back into the woods, striped turkey feathers, and a sky filled with things called stars. We’ve also lived in the city, and even surrounded by cracked concrete, there was no absence of amazing things to see. Nothing compares to your child examining leaves and architecture and ladybugs up close.

Love for Our Neighbors – Given the option, I’d probably never meet my neighbors and my interaction with them would never make it beyond that furtive wave that barely leaves the steering wheel. But walks tear things down. You—and they—can’t hide. Now, not all your neighbors will come running to talk to you, but take your kids, and you’ll see doors open. (Really. Sweet little faces do that.) Our walks have given us a chance to meet, learn about, and take things to our neighbors. And the girls get to help, which is the best part.

Faith – Honestly, all of the other benefits of walking really go back to this: faith. Our evening walks with the girls give us a chance to disciple them, to teach them about the Christian walk (and, yes, the pun is absolutely essential). We learn about creation through the wonders around them, the Fall through the impact it has on our world (kids have to know why that bird died, after all), and redemption through our stories about what God did in our lives. And all that from a Tuesday stroll.

John UpChurch is the Senior Editor for

Publication date: March 8, 2013