[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the start of a new year my contributions here at Afterthoughts is shifting for a time from incorporating physical education into the lives of our children, to emphasizing the importance of mothers training their own bodies. Just as we must serve as models to our children in other areas, such as being lifelong learners and immersing ourselves in the Word of the Lord, we must also set an example for them in the area of physical health. As with so much else in the lives of our children we have the capacity to set the stage for better or worse when it comes to embracing an active and healthy lifestyle. Are you rising to the challenge?
In Volume 3 Charlotte Mason writes,
But if children are brought up from the first with this magnet — ‘Ye are not your own’; the divine Author of your being has given you life, and a body finely adapted for His service; He gives you the work of preserving this body in health, nourishing it in strength, and training it in fitness for whatever special work He may give you to do in His world, — why, young people themselves would readily embrace a more Spartan regimen; they would desire to be available, and physical transgressions and excesses, however innocent they seem, would be self-condemned by the person who felt that he was trifling with a trust.
It would be good work to keep to the front this idea of living under authority, training under authority, serving under authority, a discipline of life readily self-embraced by children, in whom the heroic impulse is always strong. The sense that health is a duty, and that any trifling with health, whether vicious or careless, is really of the nature of suicide, springs from this view — that life is held in trust from a supreme Authority.
Do you acknowledge this responsibility for your own body, Mama? Or do you, like so many others, forego the call to maintain your own health in the pursuit of serving your family?
- “I don’t have time to exercise. How will the laundry get done?”
- “We have errands to run today, so there’s no time for me to exercise.”
- “The kids need me. I can’t leave them to go exercise!”
- “The baby is fussy and I’m the only one who can keep him content.”
…and the list goes on.
Are you familiar with any of these excuses? Could you add more to the list? I know I could. When I first became a mom my commitment to personal fitness was the first thing I dropped — even though it was such an important part of my pre-motherhood identity. I wanted to devote every ounce of myself to being a good wife and mother and often said that my body was a sacrifice to that purpose. I saw my desire to get exercise as a selfish and extravagant wish that served no one beyond myself.
Wow, was I ever wrong!
This mindset quickly took its toll on my body and mind and it has been an uphill struggle to return to my former level of physical health ever since.
We were designed to move. This is clear from the intricate design of our bodies on a micro and a macro level. Unfortunately our culture has shifted into more and more sedentary practices over time so that activities that were once rich in movement have now become virtually void of any movement.
While I am grateful for many advances that make my life easier today than it would have been two hundred years ago, it is important for us to be aware of the way that these developments have removed movement opportunities from our days. We don’t have to walk anywhere because we drive everywhere. We don’t have to take the stairs because we have escalators and elevators. We don’t wash our clothes in the creek because we (praise the Lord!) have washing machines. Even the act of going to the bathroom involves far less movement than it once did (i.e., we can sit rather than squat to accomplish it).
With this progressively sedentary nature of our society has come a host of diseases that could in large part be countered by regular activity — problems that our children can be even more prone to developing in time if we don’t instill solid habits in them while they are young.
But make no mistake: getting consistent exercise — i.e., moving more — isn’t just about our physical health. Sure, exercise has physical benefits such as stronger muscles and bones, lower cholesterol and enhanced immunity. In addition, exercise helps to minimize stress (which includes frustration, Mama!), promotes better sleep, improves memory and enhances creativity. Using our bodies as they were intended — i.e., for movement rather than for remaining stationary much of the day — is critical in order for us to obtain these benefits and more.
This isn’t just important because we are charged (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) to care for our physical bodies and for the benefits that brings. Our children imitate our actions, and they value what we value. If we don’t demonstrate a commitment to our own fitness then neither will they to theirs. We’ll be guilty of furthering a sedentary culture by sacrificing our own family to it.
That is not a legacy that I want to leave. What about you?
So, mamas, will you join me in a commitment to modeling better habits and practices for your children this year so that they can experience the life-giving effects of a movement-rich life that promotes wellness of body and soul? Their future health — and yours — depends upon it.
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