I want my kids to be active. If you knew my story, though, you’d see it’s more of a “do as I say instead of as I do” kind of dialogue.
As a child growing up in India, I played outside a lot and wasn’t sedentary, but I really didn’t play any organized sports (at least not voluntarily). And when I did have to take part in the mandatory school sports, all I can say is that I got a lot of “Thank you for participating” certificates.
Though I’m not invested in my kids playing any particular sport, what I do want for them is that they are confident enough with their skills to join in lots of different games, activities, and sports. Because throughout my life, not having those skills has made it difficult for me to be active and participate at times. And now that I’m a parent, I realize more than ever how important it is to be able to move well.
My mom ran at a time when it was unheard of for a girl from a small town in India to be not only athletic but also competitive. In school she won baskets full of awards and then continued that winning streak in college. I love hearing her stories of how she took up running as a young girl. My favourite is the time when she showed up for an athletic meet in her tight-fitting salwar kameez (a traditional Indian two piece dress) and platform heels (this was the 60’s after all). The other competitors had the shiny gear and sneakers, but she didn’t. So she took off her heels, hiked up her long kameez, and off she went (The salwar kameez is really a long top and a kind of pants. Easy to run in as long as the top is hiked up.). She won, by the way. Barefoot.
To this day, even in her late sixties, my mom is still an active, vibrant person, and gardening and yoga continue to be part of her daily activities (which is, when I really think about it, my ultimate goal for my own two girls – leading an active life).
With such inspiration to look up to, I don’t know why I went the contrary route. All I can say is that even with a great role model and encouragement from my mom, I stayed as far away from sports as possible.
Now that I’m a parent I realize it’s our job to teach our kids to enjoy being active, and that’s easier to do if you have a lifetime of enjoying activity to build on. I am committed to this journey and to building a culture of movement in our family. I’m constantly looking for ways to be active, and develop skills, in our normal day-to-day life, and I understand how crucial it is. Certainly for kids, because I believe physical literacy bolsters physical, social, and cognitive development … but also for us, the parents.
My own skills have gotten better since we’ve embraced this active lifestyle. And I found being active actually helped us adjust to our new life in Canada more easily. Of course, I already see that my kids are far ahead of where I used to be at their age. Not only are they better at sports, but they also love to move, whether it is in the backyard playing soccer, or just dancing around in the living room. My soul is relieved when I see them being so open to exploring new skills and activities. And I like to think it’s partly because we’re doing them together.
I believe there is a barrier in South Asian homes about being active. My mother was an exception, to say the least. But what if that barrier is only in our minds? What if overcoming that barrier is possible with the right skills?
As I have seen in my life, good genes aren’t enough. If we want our kids to live healthy, happy lives, being active is essential. Making healthy choices is tough, I know. But I also know it is my responsibility and my time to make them. And I’m looking forward to doing it with my children by my side.