One of the greatest gifts our mom and dad gave us was a useful model for health. It wasn’t through pointing a finger in our face and telling us what to do. It wasn’t by shaming us into putting down our Atari and forcing us to leave the house.
It was a pretty simple method: their own actions showed us how to take care of ourselves.
We’ve made no secret about what picky eaters we were. Alphonzo and I turned up our noses at many a meal as children but it was the sitting down together that made a difference. Those early years when we sat down to dinner as a family each night were only part of their gift. Yes, we ate balanced meals at home and rarely, if ever, had fast food. But what I find as more important markers for the lifestyle Alphonzo and I lead today were in the physical choices they made.
A few times a week my mom and Aunt Gwen would jog the few miles around Lake Elizabeth together. Even though Alphonzo and I were too young to keep up on foot, they took us along with them. We would weave behind them on our bikes and feed ducks along the way. As we got older we challenged ourselves by trying to keep up with mom and Aunt Gwen on foot. I still remember the day I successfully jogged around that lake without stopping. It was a particularly enjoyable moment because I suffered from asthma as a child and running was not necessarily my forte, but being able to do something that my mom made look so easy (but I knew was not) made me feel really good about myself and proud of my achievement.
On top of this, mom and Aunt Gwen escaped at least once a month to wine country for mud baths and spa treatments. It was made very clear that those trips were for adults only. It was mom’s time to get away from her life as a nurse and her kids and spend the necessary time to unwind and relax. Mental health, especially for parents and people in caretaking positions, depends on being able to relax and be in calm surroundings and occasionally getting away from the family.
Dad made a habit of going to the gym. We’d see him at home doing pushups and coming home sweating with his gym bag. When Alphonzo was old enough to do weight training with him, he’d tag along. He’d also take off to Hawaii or St. Thomas for R & R occasionally.
We looked up to our parents, two adults with full time jobs – mom was a nurse, dad was a manager at United Airlines – who managed to make the time to do what it took to stay healthy. Alphonzo and I grew up assuming this was just what adults did. As a result, we became active adults who ride our bikes to work and run to stay in shape. We go to the spa to unwind. We eat nutritious food. It’s all about moderation and balance.
This is health.
Staying active is part of our lifestyle. It is a type of intergenerational wealth as far as I’m concerned. We are now nearly 40 years old and feel great mentally and physically. Some people want to think we just got ‘good genes’ but that’s not really the whole story. We got pretty much the same genes the rest of our cousins and extended family got, but we also received and heeded the knowledge that choices make a huge difference in life.
During this holiday season, give yourself and your kids the gift of health. Show them that it is possible to make better choices that make life easier in the long run and how fun it can be. Get outside and play!
Need some ideas for healthy family fun (click on names for more info):
© 2012 The Boxcar Grocer.