When my sister and I were young, my father was a Chicago cop. His schedule varied, but he often worked nights. Sometimes when he’d wake up and I’d come home from kindergarten, we’d go for a walk. My little sister, father, and I would meander through our neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side. He would share stories about when he was a boy, and I would talk about school or dancing or something we saw on television.
Sometimes we would just walk quietly and watch the seasons changing: new flowers growing or leaves falling; or we’d catch clouds making shapes in the sky. If we didn’t already see her there, we would stop to call the cat who always sat in the second story story window of one particular apartment building on Patterson Street, and we would cheer when she came to the window.
We did a lot of different things with my father: he was a fun dad, eager to indulge the creative whims of his two young daughters, whether that meant allowing my sister and I to “fix” his hair or play Uno, Yahtzee, or Monopoly. But going on walks was one of my favorite things. It’s one of my fondest memories, and it’s one of the activities I treasure most with my own kids.
It may seem an odd message to get from a show about killing zombies in a post-apocalyptic America, but it’s one of my favorites in our book, Geek Parenting.
The Walking Dead doesn’t seem an obvious place to “get a lesson” about parenting, but that’s kind of the point of our book. There is certainly value in reading reference guides that give you lists and milestones for parenting. But so much of who we are is shaped by our daily interactions, by the things we read, watch, and do. So yes, we are influenced by the shows we watch, and sometimes those shows remind us of important things:
Even when we’re not dodging zombies, taking a walk removes many of the distractions competing for our attention. A family amble around the neighborhood or through the park gets us out of our heads and into the world.
Precocious toddlers and young children love the chance to ask questions while meandering. If you’re unsure how to start a conversation with a grumbly tween or a reluctant preteen, point out a car that reminds you of when you learned to drive, or a dog on a walk that looks like a former pet. Perhaps more important, ask questions of them: Who do you think lives in that house? Can you see a face in that tree? What kind of an apartment would you like to live in when you’re older?
Whatever we see, whatever we talk about, wherever we go, remember that when we set out on a stroll, we are spending time together — come what may.