It’s the end of January and most likely your resolution that you announced in the dwindling minutes of 2017 now have a lower ranking in your personal priority list. If you were anything like me that evening, it probably wasn’t the best time to plan my personal goals for next three hundred and sixty five days. I believe it was around ten pm desperately clinging to my spiked coffee in my sleep deprived state watching my little ones run around with no end of their energy in sight, pondering if I can pass off a replay of the New York ball drop as our current time zone midnight countdown. Let’s face it, every year, we all resolve to put more effort into eating healthier and to be more active. Although, by the end of January most have traded our trainers for a warm blanket on the couch and our homemade protein smoothies for our parent boozy nightcap. This predictable trend of the rise and fall of the attendance at gyms and organic food stores, triggered my reflection on the current struggle of maintaining a healthy, happy family and the unexpected cost to do so.
Growing up in the Maritimes, I always had an active life as far back as I can remember. Hiking, mountain biking, downhill skiing, swimming, track and field, soccer and basketball. Moving out west to the Rockies only increased my love for the outdoors as there was a vast new territory to experience. I have come to appreciate the time and effort my parents put forward to teach my younger brother and I all these amazing skills. Growing up my father was our personal cinematographer and we have countless hours of recorded video depicting his struggles of teaching us how to ride our bikes and how to ski while my mother anxiously looked on from a distance ready at a moment’s notice with the first aid kit in her arms. They have the evidence of the tantrums, wipeouts and tears but they also captured the smiles and cheers of accomplishment. I used to watch these videos clutching my sides with laughter but now I smile and sigh knowing that it is my turn to carry the torch.
My children are at the age that extracurricular activities are not only an interest but a necessity. My youngest REQUIRES this outlet. I believe the amount of energy he has could maintain a power grid for a small town. These first few years trying to figure out where our children’s interest lie is beyond painful. Here are few activities we have tried:
Hiking, a smooth entryway to get our kids interested in being outdoors and to explore. Every year we find short small trails, not too far off the beaten path but far enough for our kids to enjoy nature without the influence of urban life. There is nothing quite like a short family hike in the mountains with both parents vigilantly packing bear spray upon their belts. They not only have to be prepared to use it, but also be responsible to keep it out of their children’s inquisitive hands.
Rock climbing came next. I thought if my kids could navigate the shellacked crib bars and our bookshelves, an indoor climbing facility with proper hand holds, harnesses and fall protection would be an easy transition. Evidently, my children prefer free climbing as they have gained higher altitudes in my house on random furniture then they did at the proper facility, before freaking out that they are too high and bawl until I lowered them the three and a half feet to the padded ground.
Swimming, a skill that my husband and I feel any child should have. My children love the water, or so I thought. I thought the squeals of delight and splashing during their bath times where more water was found on the outside of the tub then in was a clear indicator. In hindsight maybe they were trying to rid the bath of the evil liquid because the moment an instructor told them to put their face in the water, it was like they were told to walk to the gallows.
Soccer. My husband and I found a great league where there are trained coaches to teach the children the proper techniques even at a young age. I wanted my children to have the proper teaching atmosphere. Now we are confident that this was actually worth our time outside in the scorching sun or in gale force wind driven rain.
Mountain biking and downhill skiing, these two activities were in essence what brought my husband and I together. Naturally we wanted to expose our children to the wonders of these mountain adventures. My children quickly learned to ride their bikes and maneuver on skis. The biggest hurdle that was and continues to be the concept of control. In a child’s mind, as it is in extreme sports enthusiasts, more speed equals more fun. What a child cannot comprehend that excessive speed usually equates to wipeouts and for some reason always ends up being my fault. My husband and I can only hope that one of our children may end up on the X games circuit and this chaos was all worth it.
Our family has also dipped our toes in gymnastics and ballet, but neither activity connected with the kids.
My husband and I just want to introduce our kids to as much as possible so they can determine what they enjoy. So far my daughter loves everything she has tried while my son’s interest resides in the first five minutes. We have a few new activities planned for this year: martial arts, obstacle training (ninja warrior style), skating and horseback riding. Stay tuned for fun anecdotes on our next family adventures.
So as you can see we are a relatively busy family, well, my children are busy. My once active lifestyle has been altered to be banished to the driver’s seat and the bleachers. My teammates are now my travel coffee mug and whatever manufactured snack I can grab and throw in my purse on the run out the door. Any time we are home, I can usually be found conquering the mountain of laundry preparing for the next round of activities or on the computer with my phone in one hand staring at the calendar to fit in yet another activity. Meanwhile my mid-section expands each day as I watch my children from the sidelines, praying that this activity not only interests them but is also worth the cash.
I have resorted to a nightly workout regime that begins with getting the kids settled in bed, then managing the two hours before I ‘should’ call it night between cleaning up after dinner, walking the dog and writing. If I am being honest the thought of heading down to the freezing undeveloped basement to train on my husbands’ insanely oversized extra large framed bike isn’t that high on my to do list. I should also mention that it has a man’s designed seat that forces me to keep pedalling until my butt falls asleep because at least I will have some comfort while trying to burn the years of flaccid fat off of my frame. Any time I do manage to get on the bike, I time each round to a short twenty-two minute comedy tv episode followed by an at home, body weight, high intensity interval workout that I have pinned on my Pinterest board. I have come a long way from playing basketball six days a week and mountain biking for hours in my spare time. What we do for our family.
Now I am not saying that every family fails at this healthy balanced lifestyle. I have a few friends in the parental tribe that absolutely put me to shame with completing triathlons, competing in CrossFit games and participating in Ironman and Spartan races. I commend these everyday parents who hold a full time job, raise multiple children and can maintain their training. You are an inspiration and your online posts force me to trade in my snack size Pringles for a yogurt and to put my iPad in front of my bike trainer instead of snuggling under a warm blanket upon the couch.
Parents, your time is precious and focusing on your kids may cause your personal life goals to end up in the back burner. You may find yourself spending days on the green beginner runs instead of hitting the black diamonds or riding on paved pathways instead of hurling yourself down a beaten mountain trail. It may not seem like the best way to raise your heart rate and to shed those extra pounds but remember, these slower, patience filled roads all lead to your children having a healthy and happy lifestyle. In the meantime, until they are ready to tackle the mountain at your side, keep working and no matter what kind of goals you have set, remember, failing is part of the journey, not the end of the adventure.
Ps: I just wanted to note the irony that I wrote the majority of this blog while in a gym waiting to pick up my father from his workout and another early night laying in bed, when in the back of my mind I knew I should have been on that inappropriately sized bike. Priorities right?