Monday, January 26, 2015

Why I Let My Kids Run

So, here's the post I promised. I was hoping to open it with a stock photo of a lioness trying to nap while her cubs frolic on and around her. I couldn't find one in the two seconds I looked. Hopefully you can imagine it, because that pretty much sums up how I feel all. the. time.

We just returned from a wonderful and emotion-filled visit with Mark's family in Edinburgh. The details of that are another post for another time. The take-away as regards this post is that I realized just how important exercise is for my children, and how much I take it for granted that they get tons of it regularly with little to no effort on my part.

We were profoundly blessed by our accommodation in Scotland. The one feature it lacked was space to run. On one particular cooped-up day, by dinnertime, the kiddos were literally bouncing off the walls. Unable to sit still, bickering, the pent-up energy oozing out in uncontrollable waves.

That day, I realized just how grateful I am that we have so much space in our home in MN. They run around the house all day. If they're not sitting still to do school, they're making up some game that requires a lot of movement: running, jumping, sliding down stairs, etc. We have rules about where, and how all this can happen. While they need occasional reminders, they generally follow the rules. I know some people are vehemently against running in the house, but when the outdoor temp hovers around 2, the only alternative I see is lethargic and obese, or sedated children. I'd rather let them run.

When Iain was briefly enrolled in an online school, his teacher requested that I fill out an hourly gym sheet, tracking at least 30 minutes of exercise for Iain every day. I never did anything with it. His whole day, apart from school, is vigorous activity. It's the same with all our kiddos.

Now, that brings me to the next point. When you have active, fit children who are used to a regular activity, what do you suppose happens when you're out in public and they see a large, open space? Yes, instinct kicks in and they want to RUN. Fast. Far. All. Over. When we lived across from a school, I observed this every morning. The K-3 graders would hop off the bus and RUN across the parking lot, as fast as they could. (The older kids were far too mature/tired and would slowly make their way to the building.)

Sometimes this is completely inappropriate. I get that, and I pass that along to them in no uncertain terms. You do. not. run in church, for example.

However, sometimes it's a bit ambiguous. For instance, a nearly empty mall in the middle of the day when the outside temp prohibits parks, an empty hospital corridor [not on a ward], an uncrowded space in the airport after a 7 hour flight.

So, we teach awareness. Be aware of who and what is around you. I'd say this is nominally successful. Siblings are most likely to experience that nominalism, esp. since little bodies tend to steer towards whatever they're looking at. I'm not sure when the look-and-avoid rather than the look-and-collide thing kicks in, but hopefully soon.

Again, this is why parental common sense is so important. They don't run in places where they are likely to damage things, hurt themselves or run into unsuspecting passers-by.

Now, I have to admit, I'm self-conscious about my running kiddos. I don't generally see other parents letting their kids run. However, I think, for better or worse, homeschooling has given my children an above-average amount of time to be active. Their bodies aren't trained to sit still for 8 hours a day. We don't have gaming systems for them at home. They are busy, active, energetic little people. And when they don't have the opportunity to burn that energy, we all suffer.

So I let them run. And yes, you can glare, but unless you're in authority and ask them not to run, I will use common sense, assess the environment and situation and let them burn some steam for a bit.

Until there are free indoor playgrounds with space to run, or running tracks in airports, I don't see what other options I have. Childhood obesity? Not in our family. I let my kids run.