Exercise · Family

Creating a Culture: Active as a Family

My husband and I have taken stances and made cognizant efforts to pull back. The Joneses aren’t bad … I’ve just seen what suburban Joneses have –large houses, large mortgage, fancy cars, fancy car payments, kids in sports, parents constantly at sports– and don’t want it. It’s a turn-off to have my head cut off, running around like an irrational chicken. As with [smart] financial decisions, saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. Put another way, saying no to menial “this is what everyone does” rat race activities allows us to say yes to what we really want to pursue. After all: My husband and I still have lives we want to live and levels we want to accomplish. Somewhere in the hustle there should be a balance.

Take for instance canning spring soccer this year. It has afforded us rainy Saturdays to chill inside when we wanted. I am so much more of a happy camper when I’m not forced to be in downright ugly weather.

Do you remember the concept of back yard games? We’ve lately had fun with a plastic baseball bat and an oversized air-filled plastic ball. (It’s a large, two-foot diameter type you can buy at Wal-Mart.) We laugh at our wacky idea while batters rotate. Parents + kids alike take turns trying to get a good enough hit to smack a family member in the shallow out field. It’s hilarious.

“Bags” (or “Cornhole”) is something we also pull out of the garage & play in the back yard. Recently we found a great way to wrap up before stowing the equipment back in the garage: Lift up one board and put one person’s face behind the hole. The other two across the grass by the other board take turns attempting to sink one in the vertical hole, throwing with a bit more vigor at their parent’s / child’s face. It’s great. We rotate so everyone gets at least one turn behind the board. It may not be a dunk tank or a whipped cream pie, but it’s still nutty.

Somewhere in signing kids up for sports, parents moved less. While kids ran, parents sat. Somewhere in handing over our schedule to leagues, we lost the practice of being active together. Further, we lost the flexibility to simply get up and go and make it a lifestyle. I didn’t have to jet my kids out the door one recent weekend morning, so I tossed my bike into the back of the minivan and logged seven miles biking at two forest preserves. Later in the afternoon my hubby took the kids for an hour outdoor outing to a favorite location. Then I chilled with the kids while he did his time biking. After the sunlight faded, we flipped on an audiobook (7 hrs in total length) we’ve been working our way through: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by the Man in Black himself~ Cary Elwes.

Being counter-cultural has showed up on our calendar. I’ll admit to being a down-home, rural gal who married an equally domestic-yet-active guy. We’re fine to fill our week to the max when necessary; we’re also content to read on a couch. We can ramp it up and kick our pace into gear when needed, but we also know how to relax. We don’t have a lake cottage getaway, so we’ve altered our regular habits to include hours to breathe. We play board games and card games with the kids and we watch movies as a family because we’ve decided to be involved in their world.

This isn’t an attack on organized activity. This is an encouragement to be aware. Be confident in blank calendar spaces, not frantic that all minutes available aren’t jam-packed. There are many ways to engage, influence, and invest in your kids’ lives. I know one family who focuses on tourist spots from Alcatraz to Gettysburg and hunts down Triple D Hotspots. This is quite ambitious, but another family we know alternates going to Africa one summer and tours U.S. National Parks/ Monuments the next. Eventually on our to-do list are cheese tours and tastings, whitewater rafting, perhaps a Balloon Fiesta, and cruising the Keys.

Yours doesn’t need to look like ours. Whatever your interests, find your version of fun and do life alongside one another.

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