Welp. There comes a time in any parent’s life, I think, where you have to take responsibility for your parental shortcomings. I think this is the season I am moving into right now.
I have two very indulged children. In the beginning they were indulged to placate. I couldn’t deal with life so I couldn’t deal with them so I occupied them as best I could. Don’t get me wrong, I know my kids. I talk to them. I hug them. I kiss them. But I’ve also had my fair share (more than actually) of days where I allowed them to watch television or play Xbox or surf the net for HOURS just so they’d be quiet.
So here we are. Both kids are too big for their ages and I really do want to make an effort in earnest to encourage them to care about their health and to take the initiative in being active and healthy. But at the same time…as I said…I have very indulged children. They are resistant, make excuses, everything I used to do.
What I figured was this. I either needed to help them find some activity they REALLY like doing but also an activity they’ve avoided doing for the perception that they cannot do it. The former to be for learning to enjoy activities, the latter being for achievement but also I wanted them to get a little pissed off about not being able to do something. They, like many kids, take the “oh well, can’t do it, guess I won’t even try” approach. I am living proof that thinking does not work!
So fast forward to yesterday. The youngest one (who is the one I am most worried about health-wise) told me some time ago she’d like to go with me in the evenings when I walked. I said ok. Now my goal is not to push her to be a race runner or anything but I did tell her this is a part of my activity for the day so it would not be slow and leisurely walking. She did not seem to mind.
Well, how it played out was a whole different story! The walk began nicely enough. She even wanted to jog a little and so we did. Now anyone who knows me knows that I have a kinship with trees and this particular park has some great ones that I’ve introduced the kids to. At a point in the walking path there is a particularly haunting tree. It’s actually two trees that grew so close together they branch out from one another and look like just one tree. It’s not an easy tree to climb but I learned to climb it. My daughter tries too but has not been successful yet.
We get to the tree and she wants to climb it. Before we started I explained we’d walk the entire loop of the park (the remainder of which was up and then down a hill but on the bright side, at the top of the hill is a beautifully restored pre-antebellum mansion that we like to peek into every now and again). Girlfriend was MAD! She wanted the tree and she wanted it NOW.
And like any 10 year old she began to get obnoxious about it. With each step up the hill she verbalized things she “hates” (thankfully I am not yet one of those things). She hates the trees, she hates the birds, she hates the grass, she hates walking (and she’s never going again).
Now understand this walk is usually my end of the day wind down. It’s how I get into “home” mode. It makes it possible for me to mother these children without going postal. So I am trying…really hard…not to react. I know she wants a reaction.
What’s interesting for me is the WAY I was first inclined to react. I wanted to shake the child and say “Do you know that you are not healthy? Do you know you that you need to be doing this or else you might face a lifetime of obesity and ridicule? Do you know what kind of life that is, how painful it is? Do you???”
But that’s what my mom did to me. Over and over and over again. And slowly but surely a kid who thought she was ok turned into a kid who loathed herself. I don’t want that for my daughter. So after a point I simply went with, “You’re not being very nice. You are welcome to THINK whatever you want to think but please be quiet for a few minutes.” I don’t know if that was right or wrong but it kept me from saying the other things.
So we got around the rest of the loop in good time and we get to the tree. She half-heartedly tries to climb it. Fails. I show her how to climb it: where to put your feet, when to push up, what to grab. She again tries, half-heartedly and again does not make it. Then she proclaims “this tree is stupid and I want to go home!” At this point I said, “fine.” We would be coming back the next day for a walk so if she wanted to try again she’d get the opportunity. But she hung back. In a smaller voice she said, “But I want to climb that tree.”
And I replied, “Would you like me to show you again?” She nodded and I showed her again after which she AGAIN only put partial effort into climbing the tree.
Walking home I was angry. What did she expect? If she didn’t try to really climb the tree she wasn’t going to get up the tree!
But then it occurred to me that maybe why she was frustrated was BECAUSE it was not easy. When she saw me do it, it might have looked easy because I’ve done it so many times I can do it pretty quickly. For her it wasn’t easy. And I believe (though there are few ways to tell) that she felt frustrated because in thinking it SHOULD be easy and accepting that it was NOT easy for her, she made some sort of judgment on herself.
I used to do this a lot in my bigger days. I’d see thin people working out and think it was easy for them where it was so hard for me and I’d resent them so much! Now as a smaller person I know working out is hard at any size. The only difference between then and now is that I am willing to push through the hard parts and keep going.
So that’s my nugget for today. Tonight we go back to the walking path and we walk again. Last night we talked and she said she really wants to learn to climb that tree and I assured her I’d be willing to go with her to the tree as many days as she’d like.
I didn’t like what I saw come out of my daughter yesterday during the walk. I didn’t like what saw come out of me. We both have stuff to work on. But I pray, SO HARD, that by trying, by facing these issues, by talking things out, by getting pissed off, by setting seemingly impossible goals (and hopefully achieving them) I am helping her escape decades of misery that I inflicted upon myself.