What Wellness Wisdom Do You Want To Pass Onto Your Kids?
My son gave me a yoga lesson the other day. It wasn’t entirely unexpected—his daycare has been doing sessions on bodies and movement, and a yoga teacher comes to the centre regularly—but I was astonished at how well he could teach, for a four year old. Gently he guided me through various positions, all renamed after animals and shapes, in the cheerful, encouraging voice of adults in his life.
“Okay, Mummy,” he said, “Now we’ve finished doing elephant, bend your leg and touch your toes to your nose. Put your toes on your nose, Mummy. Put—yes, you did it, well done!!”
Hanging half upside down, I was tempted to tell him that I’d been doing yoga since before he was born—even if I couldn’t get my ear behind my head—but his pleasure in sharing his knowledge with me was so palpable. He was just so chuffed to hang out together, doing something we both enjoyed, and it made me realise the extent to which teaching and learning make up the bulk of his small world.
When you first think of starting a family, certain things demand your immediate attention. Conceiving, planning for the birth, making sure you have the right health insurance cover, figuring out which parent will stay home, enrolling in daycare… It’s easy to get swept up in the administrative burden, and lose track of the things that make having children nice.
Like little rituals. Like the fact that once you are a parent, as terrifying as the burden can seem, you are the person with whom the buck stops. It means that you get to pick which cake from the Women’s Weekly cake book your child gets for their birthday, the caterpillar or the train; which colour to paint their bedroom; whether there’s a café you’d like to visit every Sunday morning, desperate for a coffee, while your partner takes the baby to the playground.
It also means that if you’re thinking about starting a family, now might be the time to think about the changing shape of your life, and decide which habits you’d like your new little family member to drink in, as they learn and absorb new things day by day.
I loved books as a child; I loved being read to. My parents indulged my every literary whim, which is why it was such a shock to me years later to hear my father refer to my favourite toddlerhood character as “Herbert the @#&*ing Hedgehog”. He had read me Herbert with an initial amount of enthusiasm, but with time and repetition, the enthusiasm waned. My mother, an early childhood educator, took a simpler tack; she never read us anything that didn’t captivate her as well. The takeaway here, I suppose, is that reading should be a pleasure, and if any children’s book fills you with dread, you’re within your right to hide it. Likewise, don’t let yourself be bullied into a craft activity if it makes you feel desperate.
Just as children can sense when you’re reading them something against your will, they can tell when you’re dragging your feet about exercise. (Children are very good at detecting any form of hypocrisy.) If you’re daydreaming about signing your kids up for kick-to-kick, it’s not a bad idea to take a basic footy clinic. Or find an activity that you love and keep it up when you can; go swimming together, dance to the Play School CD, go hiking with a young child strapped on your back.
A weekend exercise ritual will show your child how important it is to make time for fitness
A weekend exercise ritual will show your child how important it is to make time for fitness, which can then evolve into Saturday sports at the local oval. The value of weekend cricket, netball or footy goes beyond physical fitness – they also pick up motor skills, learn how to work in a team, and become a part of a community.
Small and medium-sized children can be total pills, but what is so astonishingly lovely is that their default setting seems to be kindness, which translates into care.
Every part of your parenting comes out in the way they tuck their toys into bed, sing to their siblings, or kiss you on the forehead when you’re feeling tired or sick. Parenting brings you into a larger community, and it breaks the ice with all kinds of people; whether it’s buying The Big Issue or visiting elderly relatives, or simply chatting with a stranger at the bus stop, there are plenty of ways to teach your child the importance of kindness in the wider world.
These are just suggestions: in reality, the list is endless. You can pass on your love of ice skating, your ability to skip stones across the water, or desire to code your own robotics; anything you cherish, anything you value, is going to be passed on to your kids, in much the same way as you might look in the mirror one day and see your mother staring back at you.
When you think about the things you might pass on, you’re really thinking about the kind of person you are. And that’s a good place to start, because you’ll still be you in five or 10 years’ time, only maybe with a child in tow. And all of a sudden, after watching and learning, there’ll be something your child wants to share with you. And it will bring you indescribable joy, even if, on reflection, you’re not sure that ‘elephant’ is a yoga pose at all.
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*The Qantas Wellbeing App is offered by Qantas and you must be a member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program and 13 years of age or over to use the App. During the Qantas Insurance Wellness Rewards 28-Day Trial, App users will earn Qantas Points without having to purchase an Eligible Qantas Insurance Product. Qantas Points earned during this trial will be credited to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account on a fortnightly basis. Once the 28-Day Trial has ended, Qantas Frequent Flyer members who do not purchase an Eligible Qantas Insurance Product will accumulate Locked Qantas Points by completing activities through the App. Locked Qantas Points will expire 12 months after the member last accumulated a Locked Qantas Point. Up to 3,000 Locked Qantas Points can be converted to Qantas Points following purchase of an Eligible Qantas Insurance Product. Qantas reserves the right to extend or withdraw this offer at anytime.