When we were young, the words “I can’t do that” were rarely uttered. We wanted to try it all, and were pretty sure there was nothing beyond our capabilities. There was also no reason to say no to adding more and more to our schedule. We had limitless energy, and thought there was no reason we couldn’t fill every hour of every day with fun activities.
In junior high school, I was a little taller and a little heavier than most of the other girls. Since my physical education teacher was quite a bit shorter, she didn’t feel comfortable “spotting” me when we were learning gymnastic moves. So, while the smaller girls were doing hand-springs and cartwheels, I was mastering somersaults and other things that kept me closer to the ground.
I also remember not being the fastest one in gym class. When we did laps around the small lake across from the school, I was satisfied with completing the race, and didn’t worry about having the fastest time.
The closest I ever came to being an athlete was when I was a member of the marching band in high school. This appealed to me first because of my love for music, but the marching thing turned out to be fun, and provided a way to stay in shape in the bargain. This is also when my sister and my mother and I learned about time management. Mom was adamant that we participate in as many school activities as we wanted, so we were not allowed to have jobs that would interfere in any way. I picked up a little extra cash babysitting, but enjoyed being a member of the band, the choir, the drama club, as well as church activities and Girl Scouts. If there were limits imposed, we never felt them.
After hubby and I started a family of our own, things seemed to change. First, we pushed our own interests to the back burner, as the kids took up all of our time. We both had to work long hours just to keep them in food and diapers, and then when they got in school, to allow them to participate in their own activities. With three offspring, choices were made, and limits on the number of things they could be involved in were a difficult reality.
Eventually, all three chose the same two things that had been most important to us as children, Scouts and band. This kept the whole family plenty busy, and soon every night of the week was packed with one activity or another. We learned several quick and easy recipes for suppers on the go, and go we did, in the typical all-American mini-van. We were on the sidelines, hauling equipment, chaperoning band trips, serving refreshments tail-gate style.
We eventually became the folks who stood in front of the school cafeteria to try to convince parents to become leaders. The script we were reading from said “Isn’t your child worth just one hour a week?” I didn’t read that part, because in truth it took a lot more time than that. But the sentiment was the same. They were worth it. Their childhood would be short, and in the blink of an eye, they would be gone, with families of their own to support.
Limits really boil down to priorities. For those who choose to be athletes, staying in condition and practicing becomes more important than anything else. Adults who want to spend time with their children find the time by sacrificing other things.
The older we get, the more our bodies play into the scheme of things. If we didn’t make exercise a priority when we were younger, it becomes harder now. So, when our time is freed up as our children require less of our attention, our bodies won’t allow us to try those long suspended activities. Limits become very real.
There is a fine line, though, between recognizing limits and giving up. It would be easy to dismiss an idea with: “Sorry, I haven’t been able to do that in years.” Or “I just don’t have the time for that.” Oh yes, sitting in that recliner in front of some meaningless display on a flickering screen is relaxing and appealing. The more we do it, the easier it is to continue.
I know that my body needs more rest now. But, I know that even though it may be tougher than it used to be, I need to continue to get up and move. And maybe I won’t be the voice at the front of the room, or the one riding the school bus to the next competition, but surely there is time to be a part, to stay involved. All I need is an occasional nudge.