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May 2017

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In most of Switzerland kids are generally encouraged to learn how to get themselves to school starting in kindergarten. (I think in the city of Zurich they are not necessarily expected to do this alone - some sort of group walk or buddy system is often implemented - but parents are expected to lay off.)

If we weren't sending Sophie to the Montessori school where she's been for a year and a half, then she would be starting kindergarten here in three weeks. So when she announced this morning that she wanted to walk herself to  the childminder (who lives 1/4 mile away, and the route to which involves one fairly busy street with crosswalk stripes) we didn't dismiss the idea as completely absurd. She's known the way ever since she was three.

(On the one hand, I still don't have full confidence in her traffic sense; on the other hand, I suspected that if I weren't right there checking with her then she would probably be a lot more ostentatiously careful about looking carefully before she crossed. Also, since small people walking alone is not so unusual here, there is a slightly lessened - but still present! - sense of danger from cars.)

So we agreed that she could go by herself, and I would take my own walk to the childminder's a couple of minutes later, so that if she ran into trouble she needn't wait long. I made her wear her bright orange hoodie and tailed her out of the house, but kept basically out of sight.

What I had forgotten was the 100% likelihood that she would stop every passer-by to announce to them that she was walking all by herself!! and so I saw her make some new friends on the route. Including a lady out walking her dog, whose path evidently took her right past the childminder's, and who essentially became an escort. I wasn't close enough to hear the conversation but I really wish I had been.

At any rate, she did it! Walked the whole way, stopped as ostentatiously as I had expected at the major crossing, looked theatrically both ways, zoomed across and then sort of danced a bit, accosted lady-with-dog, waved bye to her at the gate of the childminder's building, reached waaaayyyyy above her head to buzz the correct doorbell, and disappeared inside.

Next up: stranger safety. That will be an adventure.
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