OK, this one might sting a little. But, I feel like it needs to be said. And, once again let me start by saying that I am not an expert, nor have I earned a medical degree, and some conditions are uniquely medical. Now for my biased opinions…
Swimsuit season is upon us. And, I recently came to the realization that adults aren’t the only ones who wear swimsuits. I have two young daughters of my own and swimsuit season is becoming increasingly more uncomfortable for me as a father year after year. I’m grateful that my girls seem to prefer board shorts and swim shirts over string bikinis (at least for now). But, on a recent trip to the water park, we noticed a glaring issue – the age-old dilemma that girls are wearing smaller and smaller swimwear coupled with the fact that kids (not just girls) are getting bigger and bigger. But, easily two-thirds of the kids at the swim park were slightly overweight to obese. And, they weren’t trying to hide it.
Kids are being taught that they should embrace the bodies they were blessed with. In reality, it seems that parents are unconsciously creating unfit mini-me’s. Kids who follow in their parents’ fitness footsteps are being conditioned to believe they were just “born that way.” From the perspective of a family who battles to live a fit lifestyle every day, this seems to border on child abuse. Or, at the very least, neglect.
One excuse some may offer is that parents don’t know any better. I can’t believe this is a knowledge issue. To me, it’s a matter of choices. As parents, we all take turns bringing after-game refreshments for our kids sports teams on game day. My wife and I have become the “healthy parents” who bring water and fruit to refuel our active kiddos. Nobody wants our snacks…they scramble for the mini-oreos, candy, sugary sports drinks and sodas the other parents bring. Those are conscious choices. Those parents are actually choosing to bring what amounts to sugary desserts over healthy snacks…at SPORTS events. We’ve noticed that at the kids’ school, parents will send their kids with salad bowls filled with fruit loops washed down with juice boxes while the trash monitors collect untouched fresh fruit, white milk and lunch meat. The mentality is, “My kids won’t eat that healthy stuff, so I’ll just feed them what they like.” Since when do kids get to do what they like?
Of course my kids like that stuff, too. They’re not immune to the sugary bliss contained in pink milk, Twizzlers and fudge-striped cookies. They love that stuff we affectionately call “poison” in our household! But, they’re kids! Of course they do. It’s our job to coach them and regulate their choices so they’ll learn to make good choices on their own someday.
And, I can tell you from personal experience that if my girls were left on their own right now they’d gladly choose the mind-numbing time waste readily available on their tablets over actually having to make an effort at shooting hoops in the front driveway. As parents, we’ve had to be very conscious about that. Letting electronics raise our kids would be infinitely easier than making an effort.
My wife and I were thinking hard about that just yesterday. We had our share of chicken nuggets, French fries and ice cream as kids. And, I was even on the “husky” side growing up. But, what we didn’t have working against us was portable electronic entertainment. We weren’t raised watching entire families at restaurants all individually engaged in their own smart-phone worlds. And, it didn’t seem as easy or inexpensive to eat fast food more often than a home-cooked meal. In short, leading a more fit lifestyle is getting harder and harder. Being sedentary and constantly entertained is, in fact, normal. On the whole, Americans are earning more money. There are more choices for eating out. Personal electronics are more readily available. And, all this couldn’t be more apparent than in our kids’ waistlines.
Am I saying that kids who are overweight should be ashamed of their bodies? No. I think we all agree that we should always do our best to boost our kids’ self esteem. We want them to try new things and be successful. But, when they’re not successful, I don’t believe they should give up or continue down a path that isn’t working. If our kids are making poor grades in school, shouldn’t we make an effort to help them improve those grades? If our kids are overweight and out-of-shape, their first line of support and change should come from their parents. Because parents are where our kids learn to live their lives.
This is an issue my wife and I can discuss for hours on end. We work hard to plan our family’s meals and weekly activities. We struggle to make our kids ingest “good food” and make sure they’re staying active without being overcommitted to organized sports. In short…we make an effort. We want our kids to learn good eating habits and spend some time each day having fun and getting ridiculously sweaty. That’s really, really hard in today’s world.
I would say that a lot of folks who read my posts are interested in learning how I lead a healthy lifestyle so they can do it for themselves. And, I think that’s really great. But, today’s post isn’t just about you. It’s about the kind of lifestyle you ought to model for your kids. I really believe we all want the best for our kids. But, I believe indulging them has become the way we love them…because, let’s be honest, we’ve become accustomed to indulging ourselves. Nobody wants to be a hypocrite and tell their kids something different from what they’d be willing to do themselves. Let’s not give them a reason to accuse us of that. Maybe the next time they see you choose an apple over Oreos it’ll make them think a little harder. And, maybe the next time they ask you to meet them outside in the afternoon heat to toss the football around…maybe you should say yes. And, leave your smart phone inside.