Combating Sticks and Stones

Words can hurt, right? Even when unintentional.

My youngest has grown tall for his age (over 6’), understands the importance of healthy eating and movement to live a long and healthy life, but eats more than the energy he’s expending, and is quickly growing out of his clothes.

He and I were out for a walk when he shared a comment one of his fellow students made, calling him fat. Of course, I wanted to know details so I asked him, “What exactly did they say?” He shared it was someone he didn’t know, it happened in the hallway, and the person was smiling, made eye contact with my son, and said, “hey man, your clothes don’t fit,” and kept walking. He wasn’t laughing, his tone wasn’t harsh, but his words landed like a punch to my son’s gut. “How are you feeling?” I asked. “Sad,” he said. I understood. Of course the momma bear in me went into high gear, and I said, “if someone says that again, you can say, ‘well your personality doesn’t fit.’ It might confuse them in the moment, but should get them to think more carefully about their words to others.” I was angry.

We walked for a while more. My own feelings of insecurity and body image/shame that were more intense in my younger years came flooding back. I HATED that my child was having to experience people being so careless with their words, and trying to diminish my son and his self-worth. We talked about why the person may have said what they did — their own discomfort, or not feeling good about themselves and wanting to direct their negative energy elsewhere and my son being the unfortunate recipient. My son felt sorry for the other student and their ignorance. That student has no idea who my son is, or what he has to offer others (much like my son doesn’t know the other student).

We were fortunate that my son had been reached out to on the same day by his former school asking him to come back and volunteer, and commenting on how much he was missed. It helped ease my son’s pain. I was grateful.

Having a child that struggles with anything — looks, smarts, physical abilities, etc. is tough. People being thoughtless with their words and hurting others, just mean. I have to remind myself we all can and should do better. Be thoughtful. Be caring. Be kind.

How do you help your child when others aren’t nice? How are you modeling the behavior you want to see in your child and others?

Making the Most of It

Did you incur any weather that impacted your holiday plans?

We were looking forward to getting out of town for a few days over Winter Break, but were snowbound for a week. It forced us to just “be.” It was a bit of an adjustment, we had been so looking forward to our trip, but Mother Nature had other ideas. We had no option but to make the best of it.

While most of our family were fairly unproductive (meaning we sat around trying to stay warm and watched lots of TV) , my oldest decided to get together with a friend and workout — how did they work out? By shoveling sidewalks for other people without being asked. My son’s friend had the idea, but my son was in. He was so inspired that when he got home that first day he shoveled the sidewalk around our block (which is an oversized block covering three streets). I was impressed by his desire to do this. I asked him if any neighbors noticed his work and thanked him (we live where snow doesn’t happen often and folks aren’t accustomed to needing to clear their sidewalk). “Not really,” he said, but it didn’t seem to bother him. He repeated meeting up with his friend throughout the week, they changed it up (where they shoveled and would include have fun at several snow covered parks (they wouldn’t shovel the parks, but toss the football, etc.).

The time off truly allowed us to disconnect and enjoy the moment. We didn’t have to worry about being anywhere, getting anything done by a certain time, or braving the elements. It was a much needed respite from the flurry of activities leading up to the week prior.

How did you spend your holidays? How did you and your family make the most of unexpected situations?

Enjoying Exercise

Have you found your child more sedentary since COVID began?

My oldest has always been active. You rarely see him sitting or laying around, he’s always moving, dribbling or throwing a ball, or getting out doors. My youngest has been active-resistant. 😊 We’ve always encouraged moving your body as something needed to live a long healthy life. My son gets it, but it’s not been a great motivator for him. We’ve exposed him to different ways he can move (outside of walking and exercise), but he’s resisted. Until his older brother asked him to work out with him.

Imagine our surprise when our youngest eagerly went to work out with his brother. Our oldest has really taken to physical fitness and saw an opportunity to engage with his brother. He asked me about it prior to asking his brother. “I want him to live a long, healthy life. I want him to be around for a while.” I smiled and said, “You know what this says about you, right?” “I don’t know,” he answered, “that he should exercise?” “No,” I said, “that you care about your brother. That you love him.” He suppressed his smile until he couldn’t any longer. “Yea, I guess you’re right,” he concluded.

It is neat to see our sons come together with this activity. My husband and I have done some self-reflection and asked ourselves —shouldn’t we be doing this for our youngest son? But we agreed that he would have fought us, and done anything we asked half-heartedly, while working out with his brother is something he enjoys. And instead of doing the minimum being asked, he’s doing his best. I think he realizes he’s brother cares about him too. Bonus!

What is your child doing to stay active during the pandemic? How are you or a family member helping them?

So You Think You Can Dance?

How do you stay active?

My youngest son is not interested in athletics at all. We put both he and his older brother in soccer when they were young to learn the skills and how to play the game. My oldest son loved soccer and worked really hard to get good at it. My youngest, well, he would take a nap on the field during the game, over go off to the side and sit down or bounce up and down on the blow-up barriers between the fields. It wasn’t worth it to us (literally and figuratively) to keep him in the sport. We tried others that were offered after school — including riding his bike, golf and tennis to no avail. Our next challenge was to help him figure out what he did like to do.

He showed an interest in cars, art and drama, and we’ve encouraged him in these areas, but we really wanted to find something to would get him more active. It’s not that he has to play a sport, we just want him to move more. My husband took my sons for a run with him to see if that might be a fit, but my son came home and said “no way.” We were starting to get discouraged, but weren’t ready to throw in the towel. Our son had done Wii Dance before and liked it. He came home and showed off some of his moves. My husband and I thought, what about a dance class?  We were fortunate enough to find a class that was nearby and decided to give it a try.

My son was fairly happy to try out the class. He couldn’t wait to show off his moves and learn some new ones, but dance class ended up being more challenging than that. It required you to do stretches at the beginning prior to actually dancing. I had forgotten all about this, it has been decades since I last took a dance class. My son struggled to do the exercises, even making grunts and sighs of anguish during the warm-ups. I kept thinking, please don’t let him try to take a nap in the middle of class, or go off to the side to play. Thankfully he is older now, and was able to keep going with the class, but he did struggle. It was something new. It was hard, as his parent, to watch. I was so proud of him for trying, but felt for him.

I don’t know if dancing is in his future or not, but we’re going to give it another try. We’re hoping with some more classes, he’ll start to see how hard work pays off, and how you can have a lot of fun with it. If he doesn’t, we’ll continue to explore other ways for him to be active.

How do you help your child experience new things? How do you help them be active?