Opinion

Column: A failing grade for physical fitness? Not in my house

My kids move. A lot.

I'm a busy mom of a three pre-teen and teenaged boys. Our calendar is filled with multiple activities for each of them. It gets so overwhelming at times that I go to bed hoping they don't find another interest — a silent prayer that has mostly gone ignored.

Even though I started out my parenting journey with a firm decision to never over-enroll my boys, a firm one-activity-a-season rule in place, I had a major change of heart along the way. Why not be busy? Why not try everything? After all, they're only going to be this young and eager for a short while.

So now, when faced with permission slips left on the table for my signature, or direct messages on Facebook hinting at elite sports camps, the knee-jerk reaction to say no has turned into: "Okay, how can we make this work?"

Talk about opening the floodgates.

Our current list includes but is not limited to: Rugby, football, basketball, baseball, weight training, hockey, off-season hockey training, floor hockey, golf, Air Cadets (which includes fitness training and survival weekends) and music lessons. Our days start with a 7 a.m. drop off and end with 10 p.m. pick ups.

Some days, it's exhausting to the point of tears. While we generally can get from A to B, the unavoidable overlapping of events can require a master's degree in logistics.

But apparently it may not be enough.

Sadly, Active Kids Canada has once again announced that Canadian kids are not being given every opportunity to be physical, giving them (and us parents, by proxy) a D. Turns out our commonly-Canadian busy lifestyle is the wrong way to encourage kids to move.

"Our country values efficiency – doing more in less time – which may be at direct odds with promoting children’s health," the report states. "We have engineered opportunities for spontaneous movement (such as getting to places on foot and playing outdoors) out of our kids’ daily lives, and have tried to compensate with organized activities such as dance recitals, soccer leagues and PE classes."

Well, let me park the car to tell you, I wholeheartedly disagree.

For every organized sport we've tried, we've met numerous volunteer coaches who have taught my children things I never could — both in the mechanics of sport itself, and the intrinsic values learned through being part of a team. These are lessons that will last a lifetime, and hopefully propel my children to become coaches themselves some day.

For every organized sport they've taken up, they've spent their own free time on their skills — in the park, in our yard, together, alone, with friends.

My kids move, all the time. In addition to the organized stuff, there's plenty of time spent doing what Active Kids Canada sees as more important. They walk, bike and skateboard regularly, have newspaper routes, play unorganized sports with friends several times a week, swim at the pool, workout at the gym, have Nerf gun battles and so much more.

Do they still spend too much time in front of screens? Sometimes I think so, but they're usually online price checking their next pair of cleats or ice skates, connecting with teammates, and looking for more things to enroll in.

Or, they're partaking in some well-deserved downtime while icing their muscles.

Do we watch too much television? Depends if TSN counts as useless programming. I struggle with this myself, but it's pretty hard to turn off an NHL game when it leads to the boys heading outside, hockey sticks in hands and competition in their hearts.

And yes, I realize we are able to keep the kids busy because we are financially comfortable. Registration fees, team fees, tournament fees, gear, and getting them here and there, it all adds up. But where there's a will, there's a way. We car pool, buy used gear where possible, encourage the boys to buy at least some of their own gear, co-share costs between two households, and make sure to write off registration fees at tax time.

Now, if only driving them around to games, practices, tournaments and sporting goods stores could be made into a physical activity. I'd be looking at an A+, and looking like a marathon runner.

 

- Jessica Peters is the editor of Agassiz Harrison Observer. Email: news@ahboserver.com.

 

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