Are You a Fit Parent?
- Wednesday, January 24, 2001
Usually when people think of sports and fitness, they think only of the physical fitness of the players. When they think of parenting and fitness, they usually think of its moral or emotional aspects.
It has been my observation, however, that good parentinglike good coachingrequires all three: physical fitness, moral fitness, and emotional fitness. But parenting is an exhausting business, so in this chapter I want to deal with the foundation of being physically fit for the job.
In coaching, we recruit players who already have talent. We know they can pass, shoot, and dribble or we wouldnt even look at them. But when they report for the team, our first task is to get them physically fit to use those abilities. Coaches understand that the foundation of any successregardless of talent or desireis the energy to see the task through to completion.
Coaches dont institute curfews just to squelch their players fun. They dont watch how they eat because they are trying to be their mamas. And they dont require endless physical workouts because they are sadistic. They do these things because physical fitness is foundational to success. A well-known saying in sports is, Fatigue makes cowards of us all! If a player is tired when facing a stiff challenge, hell run from it. Hell unconsciously position himself out of the action or pass the ball when he should drive hard through the lane for the hoop. Hell only jump three times for a rebound when his opponent goes up a fourth time . . . and comes down with the ball.
When we are tired, we shrink from even trying the challenge because the energy just isnt there.
Parenting is no exception. We may have all the tools, know how to communicate with kids, love them, and desire to raise them effectively, but if we dont understand the necessity of being physically fit, we are in danger of failing simply for lack of energy. How fit do you have to be? Fit enough so that you arent shrinking from your duties because you are too tired.
When our kids come home from school and need help with their homework, if were just barely dragging ourselves around, we end up saying things like Dont bother me right now or Try to figure it out yourself.
Too often the relationships or interests our kids develop outside the homeand that scare uscan be traced back to their efforts to engage us when we were too tired to respond. More than once when my kids asked me to go out and play so they could learn how to catch or shoot baskets, I put them offuntil one day I realized they werent asking anymore. They were either doing those things with other kids or had lost interest and turned to Nintendo or something else. Suddenly I was saying, Hey, lets go play catch, but I had lost my opportunity, because when the time was ripe I had been too tired.
The same thing happens in marriage. Too often we are just too tired to talk, too tired to listen, too tired to even want to think about it. Frustration and lack of good communication coincide with being too tired.
I understand when parents say, Im just too tired right now. Parents dont make that up, but we are the ones responsible for changing the situation. We must ask ourselves what is necessary to recover the required energy. If we are running low on gas in our car, the only option if we want to keep going is to put more gas in the tank. Physically we do that for our bodies with a proper diet, adequate sleep, and sufficient exercise. And thats whats needed if you are going to be a good parent.
There was a time when I realized that I didnt have enough gas in my tank to fulfill the reasonable and important expectations of my family. I had slipped into a pattern of coming home a little lateoften after the family had begun supper. I was tired when I came in, so after greeting everyone, I went upstairs and changed from my suit and tie into something a little more comfortable. Then Id wash up and sit down to read the paper for a few minutes just to unwind. When I was ready, Id come down to join the family. By then they had usually finished the meal, and the kids had scattered.
I noticed that Sherialyn seemed irritated with me, so I probed until I discovered that she was at her wits end over my evening routine. Being at the supper table with the family was important, and I was blowing it off. Of course, I tried to justify my actions by saying that I was tired and deserved a window of relaxation before I engaged in the reports from school and Ricky telling on Kelley and Kelley telling on Sabrina. I just didnt need that the minute I walked in the door. But the look on her face didnt change, and when I thought about it, I knew she was right. I was facing a fitness issue.
So I changed my routine. I needed to get home a little earlier so I could be present and ready for the suppertime interaction. I also needed to get to bed a little earlier at night so I wouldnt be so tired at the end of the day. I also got back into an exercise routine because I knew that really adds to ones overall energy, and its been working. The adjustment definitely helped!
The needs of our families dont revolve around our convenience or our readiness to meet them. Their needs are constant and so should be our readiness. That means keeping fit, and theres no other way to accomplish this than by proper diet, adequate rest, and plenty of exercise.
Excerpted from: Coaching Your Kids in the Game of Life
Copyright 2000, The estate of Ricky Byrdsong
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
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