|Becky, my 13 year old daughter riding my bike!
I know that my first responsibility is the well being of our two daughters – to provide, love, nurture and prepare them for making a good contribution to society when they grow up. For me, this is probably the most difficult job in all the world.
One of the things we are determined not to do is to fall into a modern parenting trap. The trap is raising kids in sterile plastic bags, while wrapped in cotton wool. Another thing is ensuring they’re not lazy and ought to have a bit of independence as they grow up: self confidence and reliance. There seems to be a mentality around about not climbing a tree because you might scrape your knee, or not to risk going outside because there’s a chance it may rain.
Kids don’t seem to cycle very much these days
Earlier this week I took my kids to school and happened to notice another parent unloading a bicycle from their car. Naturally this caught my eye and this was soon followed by bumping into an acquaintance (Chris) who is a Bikeability trainer (in “old money” this is the Cycling Proficiency test). We had a brief chat in which he said he’d come to do the cycling training. Out of one class only 3 children were doing it (and I think that was Year 6 – an ideal age). This is depressing and sadly it is not unusual. I remember when our girls did this training, there weren’t many others doing it.
The vibes I pick up is around the kind of excuses parents sometimes use to justify their own lifestyle. Some of these are paraphrased as:
- The roads are too busy
- There are too many potholes in the roads
- Bikes are too expensive
- We don’t have enough time
- There might be a paedophile lurking out there somewhere
Why is this so important?
I was at a conference earlier this week at Bristol (Social Investment in the public sector) and it was mentioned the NHS spends 10% of its funding on Diabetes related issues. Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem which, it could be argued, can mostly be attributed to modern lifestyles with their poor diets and a lack of exercise. Children tend to follow the example of their parents, often picking up many traits of their lifestyles and attitudes. While I was in the West Country I went to see my parents at the coast and it is appalling seeing young adults waddling along the sea front so heavily. Many were over weight and you could see plenty of “man boobs” wobbling around under football tee shirts – there were so many! It is not helped by the number of candy floSome wise wordsss, chip shops, fizzy drinks etc that could be bought in many places. There were middle aged people who were clearly obese needing walking sticks and then some older folk needing huge battery powered wheel chairs which were almost the size of a small car.
Surely it is important that our children, who are still growing and impressionable, grow up being physically able (wherever possible) and fit and healthy. Their habits, interests and past times now will probably have an influence on their adult lives, so let’s get this right now.
Rising to a challenge takes some confidence and I think it’s good to stretch our children from time to time. There’s something about that self belief, confidence and willingness to rise to the challenge – isn’t that a quality we need in society, in commerce? Then there’s something being able to accept things when we fail, when we don’t quite make the distance. That happens in life and knowing how to handle that is important. Being able to reflect is important too, to learn from our mistakes and errors, to consider our impact on others around us in our communities.
How do we know our limits unless we try; unless we push ourselves to the limits and then just a little bit further?
Children can push boundaries in all kinds of ways and I think that’s all a part of growing up, no matter how trying it is for parents at times. To be honest, there are some boundaries that get pushed which I don’t find helpful (like my patience at times!) but other times with school work and what can be achieved is positively encouraged. Surely so many things have been achieved by the “greats” of history when boundaries, accepted conventions and beliefs have been pushed to the limits?
To be imaginative, to dream
Just imagine how dull the world would be without art, without music or an outlet for our feelings and emotions. Just imagine a world without people with vision, without courage or conviction to do what is right. We must nurture our children to be like that but vital to do it with the right value base – to know what is right and wrong, just and unjust.
Some wise words
Surely the age old saying of “healthy bodies, healthy minds” must have much going for it. That’s just a saying but in the Bible there is the book of Proverbs (which I often find myself reading or recalling) and in chapter 22 it says:
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (verse 6)
The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!” (verse 13) For me this means we shouldn’t be lazy, thinking of excuses and reasons why we shouldn’t do things.
You might like to check out a blog I enjoy – the Family Adventure Project – now I don’t know if they’re Christians or have any faith (I honestly don’t know) but I do admire them. They also cycle, amongst other things, as a way of raising their kids in a wholesome way. Very readable, sometimes funny, sometimes reflective, inspirational and always worthwhile.