June 11, 2012
While at the park today with my 2-year-old boy, a team of what I will call “Power Moms” literally strolled in. They donned the latest, greatest workout gear, and each had their double jogger strollers. You could feel the power beaming from them, as if the Queen Bee had just flown into the hive. They parked the strollers; the kids jumped out. Both moms and daughters went straight to work. The older group laid out their blankets on the lawn and started doing all sorts of abdominal work. Their daughters grabbed their exercising bands from the strollers and took over the playground, turning it into a mini gym. They attached their exercise bands to the rope ladder and worked on their arms. They used the kiddie picnic table as a step-machine, stepping first onto the seat, then on the table, and worked their way back down. They used that picnic table seat to do reverse push-ups to tone the backs of their arms, then turned around and did push ups to work on the bicep. All the while, their mothers were cheering them on, encouraging them to do more pushups. Did I forget to mention that these were 3-year-old girls?
At first I thought it was cute. The little girls wanted to be just like their mommies. They were just imitating them and pretending to exercise. Then my little guy wanted to see what they were doing. He dropped his shovel, abandoning it in the mulch, and went over to watch. They were using their exercise bands on the rope ladder. He thought it was funny, so he laughed. Then one of the little girls looked at him and barked, “It’s not funny!” I stood up and walked over to where they were. He was laughing hysterically. I asked him what he was doing and he said, “Where’s my rope?!” I explained to him that we didn’t bring a rope to the park today, but pointed out his deserted shovels. The little girl looked at me, very seriously and said, “He’s laughing and this isn’t funny.” She had the attitude of someone in the middle of a heavy workout who had just been interrupted. “Well, he thinks it’s funny,” I said “He’s never seen this before.” She looked me straight in the eye and said with attitude, “No, my mommy says this isn’t funny. We’re working out.” Right, fine. I’m not going to pick a fight with a 3-year-old. I took my son and redirected him back to his shovel.
Back on the bench, I can hear the Power Moms talking loudly and proudly. One gloats to her friend, “I’ll be doing Jillian Michaels video and she will do the whole thing with me! She does all the moves.” Then she looks at her daughter, “Good job, Honey! Keep it up!”
That’s when the little girls started climbing “stairs” (a.k.a standing on the table). My son again wants to know what they were doing. He thinks it is funny that someone would stand on a table. Go figure, it’s not something we allow in our house. “Oh, look! Now they’re doing their ‘steps’!” one mother beams.
That’s when I made up my mind that this was not “cute.” These young girls were not playing “exercise”. They were truly working out. The whole situation made me uncomfortable. It’s great that these moms are taking their health seriously and are finding time to work out, but what kind of message is this sending to the children? It made me think about how I talk about fitness and food around my son.
There is a right time to introduce exercise to children. I’m not sure when it is; gym class, perhaps. I am sure, however, encouraging your preschooler to work her gluts and saying she “needs to do 10 more push ups” is not the right way to go about it.
As uncomfortable as this whole sight made me, I’m glad I saw it. I am definitely going to be more conscientious of how I speak about my own health in front of my son, even if I’m not speaking to him. These kids absorb everything.
I want my son to be healthy and active, and enjoy good, nutritious food, but I don’t want it to be an obsession. I don’t want him to feel like he’s dieting or exercising. I want him to feel like he’s playing and eating. And I certainly don’t want him standing on tables (but that’s a entirely different issue).
*Photo above is a stock photo advertising the BOB stroller, taken from www.healthchecksystems.com.
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