I mentioned on Facebook before the last General Conference that Elder Klebingat's talk was burning a hole in my noggin, because there was one thing that I didn't follow up on very well--that was getting into better physical shape.
I find it's really hard for me personally to find time to work out and take care of myself, because I devote so much time to my family.
Well, this summer, I came up with a goal to walk with my family every day for at least one hour. I figure if I can't find time to get away by myself and exercise, why not enlist the help of my little friends.
Growing up, we walked a lot! During the summertime, especially, we walked up to our elementary school for activities or down to the park at the end of our street, and we always walked to friends' houses. Rumor has it...and the rumor must be true, because it came from my Mom...that on my first day of Kindergarten, I wouldn't even let my mom walk me to school!!! Because I had walked to school so many times with my older siblings, I "knew the way."
Children today miss out on that feeling of independence that comes with walking to school (as many towns consolidate schools and parents can't or don't allow children to walk places alone). My kids are still young, but they will soon get to the age when they will want to venture out to a friend's house on their own, and I want them to be able to do that safely when appropriate, so I'm starting now to show them how, where are the safest routes, the rules of the road, etc.
It has been something that, from day one, has been a huge exciting adventure for all of us. I can't explain all of the added benefits walking with my children has brought to us, but here are a few:
1. They are learning how to keep themselves safe. To start off, I taught them the rules of walking, especially walking in a town with very few sidewalks. I've taught them what shoes to wear, what to pack in their back-packs so they will be prepared and safe (including a small first-aid kit, water, a poncho, safe walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses, bug spray, etc.)
2. They are becoming knowledgeable about the place where we live. We map out where we are going to walk each day. I point out landmarks, friend's houses, where they could go if there was trouble, etc. I also ask them to lead the way, so I know they are learning the routes.
3. They are learning about nature. As we walk, I point out the plants that are in bloom. I teach them the names of these plants and different ways to identify them. I teach them to respect plants and animals and other people's yards! Sometimes, they collect pine cones or an interesting rock. One day, we walked by some tree clippings with small green apples still on them. I let my kids taste the apples...they learned really quickly why we don't eat unripe apples, but it was fun to try that out and watch each other's faces.
4. We have really good talks as we walk! Granted, during our walks, we run the gamete of emotions. For about 75% of our walks, we are laughing until our guts hurt and by the end usually someone has had a meltdown of some kind. But sprinkled in there are moments where my children have surprised me with a question that I know they wouldn't have asked me at any other time...but because we are walking and talking, and none of us (me) are distracted by our cell phones, they know they have my attention and they end up asking me really delicate questions and I have time to answer them with a clear mind and an open heart. These are priceless moments that most parents want but aren't sure how to "get there". We have gotten there by walking together.
5. We have bonded. When you are that weird family who gets up at 7am and walks in bright pink ponchos in the drizzle on the first day of summer, you tend to feel a kinship to one another. And we do have that feeling now that we've been walking together every day.
6. And of course, you have good health and memories to last a lifetime. We hope that this tradition with continue to strengthen not only our health and our habits, but our harmony as a family. I believe that it will.
I am so grateful for the admonitions of our church leaders to spend time together as a family, and I am grateful for promptings of the Holy Ghost that help me every day to become a better mother and companion to my children and family.
What do you do as a family in the summer that brings you closer to one another? Please share with me in the comments.