The small orange ball named “Spongy Fun” sailed across the room with two pursuers hot on the trail. One, a young girl of about 10, dove low to pop it from underneath, while the other, an elderly gentlemen with a beard, tapped the top of the ball to propel it away. A couple of enthusiastic spectators cheered on their respective team. Both the girl and man stopped short to prevent a collision, and burst into laughter while the rest of the crowd cheered. This was Thanksgiving at my house, and we were doing what we did every year. Being active and having fun.
At this time of year, it’s easy to think of traditions. It wasn’t until I was older that I came to realize that my friends didn’t seem to share the same traditions as my family. Most people I know have traditions that begin and end with food. While my family has traditions around food too, we also have a tradition of being active together. In a world that is increasingly obese, being active is important for a healthy lifestyle.
I was always obese as a child. However, I consoled myself with the fact that being obese didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted. Along with my family, I went on long bike rides across the border to a mini-golf course in Illinois and took day-long hiking trips through the nearby woods. So long as I was able to keep up, I considered myself fit. Keeping up is not easy for the baby of the family to do, but I never stopped due to my size.
In addition to being able to bike and hike, our family encouraged mingling of all generations in team sports. As is common in larger families, we always had a friendly competition. Our favorite was volleyball, but we also played basketball, badminton, tennis and touch football. From five years old to 80 years old, we expected everyone to have a chance to play. Of course, sometimes the adults preferred to chat or mingle with the other adults, but some were more into the games than the kids. We weren’t big on rules or restrictions, but we were big on fun!
When I married, I realized that not everyone is as interested in activity as my family. My husband’s family is more likely to send the kids off to play while they have intellectual or political discussions. Exercise is very important to his family, but social interaction usually happens over a dinner plate or beverage, not a net or ball. Therefore, my opportunities for being active in the family are less. Exercise is done on personal time, not family time.
Today, the types of activities that families might do together are slightly different than my childhood. Today, the family might gather around the Wii, and play a game of bowling or Just Dance. In some ways, the Wii levels the playing field, so that older folks can compete with younger folks. But, how many people can really gather around a TV and play Wii? The Wii might be a great method of maintaining fitness, but it doesn’t provide the same type of bonding as I had growing up.
As Thanksgiving approaches, think of what your own active family traditions are. Do you put up Christmas decorations together, rake the leaves before the snow flies, or go for a long walk after eating dinner? If you don’t have any active traditions, what are some that you would like to start? The great thing about any tradition is that it first started with an idea. Whether it’s a game of “Spongy Fun” catch in your living room or pick-up football in your yard, why not start your own active tradition this holiday?