My Family's Walking Adventure with the Springhouse Students

- Written by Rachel Troyer, Springhouse Adult Programming Participant -

Last year, the Springhouse students and staff embarked on a walking tour of the area, traveling from Floyd to Roanoke along the Blue Ridge Parkway. When I heard about the trip from a staff member, I exclaimed about how fun and challenging it sounded, and she graciously invited me to join the adventure for a day. I am a mother to a five-year-old and an eight-year-old, and we are a home-schooling family, so I asked if our children could come along for the day as well. After some safety and logistics planning, we decided it could work and that we would join the Springhouse walking adventure on the first day.

When I told our children about the plan, they were confident about the walking (and stroller-riding), but they had a surprising mixture of trepidation and exhilaration about spending the day with "teenagers." We don't know many teens and so "teenagers" hold a mythical kind of fascination with our children. They wondered if the "teenagers" would talk to them or be "weird and crazy." I found the conversation pretty funny as I assured them that all the Springhouse teenagers that I knew were kind and friendly, and that we would all be there together to figure it out. I did begin to wonder how we would fit in to the social scene as we walked.

When we met up with the group, all wearing their bright orange shirts, my son was very excited that he was wearing the matching color. As we approached the group of students and staff, several people greeted us, gave high-fives to the kids and commented on his matching shirt. He was beaming. As we walked along through the morning, and my son became more curious and confident, he began to talk to students and walk near them. Every one of the students he approached was friendly, kind, and engaging. Two of the students in particular made an effort to connect to our children. My daughter, who is younger and pretty shy, was so taken with a female student that the two of them walked along ahead of me, holding hands and giggling together for long stretches on the low-traffic, side roads. That is where my son asked to walk ahead with a small group of students. I had been walking near them for awhile, listening in to be sure that the content of their conversation was appropriate for young ears, and I was continually impressed with how one young man in particular included my young son in their talk, listened as he told ridiculous, non-sensical jokes and laughed with him, making him feel like he was really a peer. My son looked at me with pleading eyes and asked me to walk well behind them because he needed some time alone with his "new good friends." I agreed, and as he ran ahead I was rewarded with the sound of his laughter and glee ringing off the hills.

After a long, hot day together, we gave hugs and said goodbye. My children's faces were sticky with sweat and road dust, blinking with exhaustion and glowing with happiness. The talk on the drive home was all about their new friends and how they want to be teenagers just like them. We all look forward to being together again with our "new good friends."

Published on October 9th, 2018

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