My new life as a mama has quickly become the life of a mama of a very energetic, adventurous little boy. And one thing that’s become clear as I watch my son learn to throw a ball, climb stairs, and balance on a bicycle, is that people quickly develop notions about what my child will do later in life based on how he looks or what he happens to be loving at this moment. Just to be clear my son is 2-years-old. That’s a bit young to project big things on to him.
Of course, I understand that although our son is a pretty tall toddler, at least according to the fancy charts at our paediatrician’s office, this doesn’t automatically mean he’ll be a basketball star. Ditto for a future as a Toronto Blue Jay just because he’s loving throwing balls across the room right now.
But the rest of the world doesn’t always see this the way I do. He’s already getting a pretty steady stream of these kind of comments and messages and I’m not sure that’s the best thing for him and his future as an active, healthy person.
To counter this chorus of well-meaning commenters, I’d love to offer my son my own hopes for how he’ll approach physical activity. If he were able to read and/or sit still long enough to listen to this wish list, I would tell him these five things:
1. Be patient with yourself
Nobody is born with the skills you need to play sports or participate in activities. Just as you’ve had to learn to walk, you’ll learn how to do many other things like hop, skip, jump, etc. Don’t let lack of skills limit you or get you down.
Mom and dad are going to support you and help you. We’ll play with you and when it’s time, pick out coaches and programs that see you as the child you are and not a mini-elite athlete. And when you’re ready to play a sport or participate in an activity, even if you aren’t the best at it, the only thing we care about is that you are enjoying yourself and learning.
2. Do what you love but try lots before you decide
Right now, you love to fill a box full of balls and throw them as far as you can across the room, over and over again. Let’s agree to not let this current interest dictate your future. If we made big decisions based on what you love to do we’d have had to accept that you were going to grow up to be a professional gymnast based on your love for your jolly jumper when you were six months old.
I know that what the ball throwing really means is:
- you love to have fun and I want you to always love to have fun and;
- you’re doing this over and over because you enjoy it and you’re getting better at it because you’re doing it over and over.
It’s a cycle that I expect to see repeated many times as you discover new things. Dad and I are going to expose you to lots and lots of other fun stuff to try and we know you’ll eventually find one or two things you love the most. If it’s still throwing balls across the room when you’re 14, well, we’ll figure that out then.
3. You get to choose how you feel about sports and activities
We’re going to help you try lots of things but you get to say whether you keep going (after giving it a good try, of course). But being active is something that we won’t be prepared to ever let you give up on. You don’t have to play basketball or hockey or whatever else isn’t floating your boat, but your dad and I will help you find a way to keep moving, whatever that might mean for you.
Maybe it will be bike riding or maybe it will be rugby (just please know I might have to cover my eyes during those games). Whatever you choose, know that you’re doing great things for your health and well-being by staying active every day.
4. Forge your own relationship with physical activity
Since we’re already having a heart-to-heart, I will admit to you that your mama was rarely picked first in gym class for team activities. The older I got, the more I dreaded gym class and anything that required picking a team. That might not be your experience at all and I hope it’s not, but most importantly, I hope you see past being picked first and focus on the new friends you might make, the physical skills you will work on, and the fun you will have in Phys Ed. Whether it’s your favourite class, or not, Phys Ed will be just like every other subject in school where you will try hard and learn something new everyday.
5. We believe in you
At the end of the day, your dad and I (and the rest of your family) believe in you. You fought your way into the world four weeks early and fought your way to develop into the amazing toddler you are today. So, whether Coach Bob, neighbour Jim, or the lady on the bus think you’ll be the next Sidney Crosby or not, really doesn’t matter. We believe you’ll be someone who loves to stay active and healthy everyday.
As I watch my son climb onto his wagon and pretend it’s a skateboard (without really knowing what a skateboard is), I realize that I’ll probably end up learning as much about being active from him as he will from me. And what I know for sure is watching him live an active lifestyle, that he helped shape, will bring me so much joy and pride.