So as I thought of healthy family fun month I wanted to share a story about my well…maybe taking family’s health a little too far. Sometimes keeping your family healthy and well pushes you to places that surprise you. And a teenage son will push you even beyond those places. Don’t worry this story is not about forcing my family on an all kale and quinoa diet. I’m woking up to that for next July!
This story is about my son. When he arrived fourteen years ago, I was shocked. A boy. Really! I was not prepared to parent a boy. We were mostly a girl household. I did have a younger brother and I’d watched how that worked when it came to keeping him active and healthy.
Boys play sports with other boys. They run around with other boys until they are exhausted. You take them home, shower, feed and water them (in that order) and then do it all over again the next day. It seemed straight forward enough. I could do that.
Well, my guy was not programmed that way. He hated team sports from the first t-ball practice. We lived in Philadelphia and the t-ball field was near some train tracks. He watched a lot of trains that season.
It wasn’t that he was an uncoordinated kid. He could hit and throw and catch. But at five years old he declared sports to be “a stupid waste of my time.” Hmmm…
By this time I really had confirmed that boys are like puppies. They need to run. They need to expend the innate energy inside their bodies. Every day. If not, well…it’s not pretty.
So began the task of keeping this kid moving. I’ll spare you the tales of the early years. It was easier to keep him moving by frequenting the neighborhood parks. We walked everywhere. The defect to the suburbs six years ago offered more free roam outdoor spaces where I could pitch him outside, unsurpervised. In warm weather, we’d go to the pool and we did a lot of hiking in Fairmount Park. But winter, with less outdoor time, was tough.
Last fall I joined a gym and took him along. That kept his interest for a while. He like the mechanics of the weight machines. Then two things happened. First, I acquired a second fitbit (it’s a step tracker) at a conference I attended. Second, he started caring about money. So a dreamed up a contest for he and I. I gave him one of the fit bits. If he got 10,000 steps in a day he got a dollar. If he got more steps than me in a day, he got another dollar.
So give me a break here. I know maybe money is not the best motivator and may even be bad parenting. Plus I did not actually calculate how much this could cost me. I was a desperate woman.
He loved it. At 9:30pm every night he’d check in. If he was close, he would race up and down the stairs to beat my step count. And I’d pay up. We were good for about a month or and he was making a nice income. I was tired of paying up and some days it was hard for me to get 10,000steps. Bu I was determined to make him work for his payout. At least a few days a week.
It was a Friday night and we were having some friends over. I took a shower and needed to iron some shorts. Our iron is in the basement. Fast forward to the next morning. My fitbit is MIA. I am super careful with that thing making sure to put it in the same place every day to charge so I did not lose it or accidently wash it.
I looked for days. No fitbit.
Last week I finally cleaned my closet for summer. I pulled a robe out of the closet. It felt heavy. That’s when I saw the fit bit securely attached to the pocket. Then I remembered. I’d put the fitbit on the robe to go up and down the stairs and get more points to beat his total that day. That was over the top. And since I had lost the fitbit the whole contest thing was over any way. No fitbit, no motivation, no moving. Game over.
Most of the time we’re all are like my son. We need to be moving and need some contest, game, motivation, partner, goal, race, SOMETHING to keep us motivated. Along the way often we lose the device, fall off the wagon or lose interest.
I’ve decided it’s okay. It’s hard to stay engaged and counting and tracking all the time. Sometimes we need a break. Plus it’s summer. I’ve decided on less structure and more spontaneity this summer. Last week my husband bought a Frisbee. So far we’ve spent most of our Frisbee time chasing our dog when he steals it. But who cares. We’re having fun.
So for the next few glorious warm months, go outside. Change things up. Be spontaneous. Lose your devices. Be a kid. Just play.
See you playing Wiffle ball on the beach!