Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How Deciding to Sell My Car Has Made Me a Better Mom

I've decided to sell my car. It's nearly 20 years old and needs work. As much as I love that van, the time has come for me to stop funneling money into that beast. It hasn't sold yet and I'm not even sure anyone will actually buy it, but we're practicing what it will be like to live car-free.

It's summer time and the weather is usually great for walking and biking around town. When it's not 100 degrees out, we can get just about anywhere we need to go on our bikes. And there's always the bus. The younger kids are free and Janey and I can ride in town for 50 cents. We had already been doing just that some of the time. However, it was not unusual for us to rely on the car because I was running late, or because we had scheduled activities back to back. The bus only comes every half hour. You can only go so fast on bikes, with three kids in tow.

Three weeks ago, when the mechanic gave us the bad news, it took me about 45 minutes to decide that I wasn't going to fix it. It felt like an exciting challenge. Car free? Awesome. I love it. Great idea....right? I mean in this small town we are clogging up our roads way too much anyway. Why not take one more vehicle out of the picture? So, the first week after we listed it for sale, we made it into a game. We didn't make plans to go anywhere or do anything unless we could figure out a way to walk, bike, or take the bus. A few times we carpooled with friends when we wanted to venture farther out. We stayed home more, we chose our activities more consciously. The kids started taking the bus to their dad's house (by themselves!!!) for their weekly overnights. And here's what I've noticed so far:

  • We've slowed down. When you can't just jump in the car and race from one activtiy to the next, you have to slow down. A lot of things that I would have normally tried to squish into our days just have to wait.
  • We are more aware of our neighborhood. We've met a few new neighbors because we are on foot and pedaling around more often. There's a developmentally disabled man that we have seen walking in our neighborhood often over the past 6 months. Now that we are passing him more frequently, we've learned that his name is John and he loves lawn mowers...lives for them, actually. His caretakers have explained to us that his walks each day are simply quests for lawn mower sightings. We've also learned that he never forgets a face, and he now waves wildly when we pass by.
  • We're getting stronger. Last month, the kids didn't last nearly as long as they do now. More frequent riding means stronger muscles. Less complaining means happier kids and a happier mom.....yes!
  • My kids know their way around our town. In just a few weeks of riding bikes daily, their sense of direction has improved and they are beginning to see the town in "routes". They have a new understanding of where their favortie spots are in relation to each other. They are also figuring out which routes have the fewest hills.
There are days when we do end up climbing in the van because we can and it's still there, but for the most part we are living many of our days without a car. And cool things are happening as a result. Yesterday, I walked down the street to pick up my kids at the bus stop. On the walk back, we chatted with a neighbor we don't see very often. She offered us two free tickets to an Oregon Shakespeare Festival play. Janey and I went to the play today. It was her first OSF play and my second. It was fantastic. And all because I've decided to sell my car.

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