The typical work day may end at 5 p.m., but for parents, the day is far from over. Evenings are filled with making dinner, doing dishes, bath time, making lunches for the next day, and the list goes on. It is not surprising that exercise and wellness often fall off the priority list for busy parents. That is where Karen Patten comes in.
Karen is Alaska’s only Pro Fitness Athlete. If that isn’t impressive enough, she is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, and Fitness Model among other things. On top of it all, she is a wife and mother of three. Karen has agreed to do monthly guest posts that will include exercises you can do at parks or playgrounds with your kids. Karen Patten in her own words:
I admit to being somewhat of a voyeur. There’s a family downstairs I like to spy on. I sit outside their door and listen as they go about their day. I eavesdrop shamelessly as my six-year-old uses her voice and imagination to bring Ken, Barbie, and their children to life. It’s amazing to see how the adult world is interpreted by my child’s mind. The best and worst of what she knows about adults are played out in Ken and Barbie’s Dream House. I learn as much about my parenting techniques as I do about my daughter in listening to how she manipulates Ken and Barbie’s world and their family interactions.
As parents, we try to teach our children in many different ways, the key word being, “try.” The most common method in our house is the Long-Boring-Lecture-Method. I use this for the big life lessons, like drinking, drugs, and sex, and it usually results in heavy signs and dramatic eye rolls. I’ve also been known to try the Repeat-Myself-Over-and-Over-Until-I-Get-Frustrated-and-Start-Yelling-Method. This is most commonly used for personal responsibility, chores, and sibling relationships and so far has been less than successful for anything more than soliciting slammed doors and cries of how unfair I am. It is now becoming clear to me that teaching by example is one of the most effective ways to influence a child.
The other day, Ken and Barbie were getting their day started. Ken said he was going to work. Barbie said, and pay attention now, this is the profound part, that she was going to workout. In my daughter’s imaginary adult world, dads go to work and moms workout. How cool is that? I have never tried to “teach” my children that exercise is important; it has simply always been a part of our lives. Without even realizing it, I have passed on to my children that exercising and taking care of one’s body is a vital, important, and relevant part of a parent’s life, and I did it with minimal huffing and eye rolling! So I now have a new parenting skill to add to my repertoire- the Live-My-Life-Well-So-My-Children-Will-Grow-Up-Healthy-Method. As simple as it sounds, it’s not always easy for parents to put their own needs in perspective.
When I was a new mom, I thought there was something noble in devoting so much time to my children I ended up neglecting myself. I thought that personal sacrifice was a sign of a devoted and committed parent. I’m embarrassed to admit that it took several years for me to realize how ridiculous this was, and it took my own mother’s intervention (thanks, Mom) for me to recognize I was actually doing a disservice to my children as well as to myself.
It’s important to acknowledge that most of us end up more like our own parents than we plan on. My own very scientific studies have shown this to be true, and there are days when I pull a sweater over my head and see my mother’s hand come out the sleeve. So, the best example we can give our children is to treat ourselves as we want them to treat themselves. We make sure our children have good healthy food to eat every day; do we provide the same for ourselves? We make sure they spend time playing and socializing with friends; do we provide time for our own social needs? We sign them up for physical activities and make sure to get them to games and practices on time; do we make the same efforts to provide exercise opportunities for ourselves? If not, why?
Tell me your excuses; e-mail me at Karenpatten@gci.net and tell me what obstacles are in your way. I’ll write about your responses in a future blog and hopefully can come up with solutions. It’s not only your health and fitness at stake; it is your child’s future health and fitness. Nothing is more important.