Balance

The idea that much of what is good for us lies in the middle has been resonating with me lately.  Much of what ails us is caused by too much or too little of a good or bad thing.  A few that come to mind:

  • Too much sunlight can cause cancer, but too little can lead to not enough Vitamin D conversion.
  • Too much exercise can lead to overuse injuries, but too little can lead to lots of negative effects (cardiovascular disease, depression, cancer, etc.)
  • Being too strict with your kids can lead them to rebel (some claim), while being too lax can cause them to be spoiled.
  • Too much work can cause stress, while too little work leads to boredom.

I think about these ideas when I am health coaching people.  A lot of times, someone is doing too much or too little of something, and I am trying to lead them towards the middle.  It’s safest in the middle.  It’s not terribly exciting, but it’s safe.

I find myself in a daily struggle to maintain that balance.  I know that I do best when I spend a good amount of time with my kids: teaching them, feeding them nourishing food, guiding them, playing with them, begging them to clean up their rooms.  But, after an entire day with them, I’m done!  I need balance.  I need time alone with a book or show that is not for kids.  I need to re-balance that scale.

I take the same approach with food.  I love dark chocolate, rich desserts, and gyros.  And, every once in awhile, a big plate of ribs hits the spot. But, after a day or evening of indulging, I’m all for some high fiber cereal with fruit–or as Patch refers to them: “horkin’ fiber chunks”.  It’s why I have no problem with you seeing me eat those deliciously greasy chupaquesos (an egg filled quesadilla with a cheese shell).

I find the same balance with my love of our great city (Chicago), while maintaining a yearning for a simpler country life.  I often wonder if I moved to the country would I get used to not having a TJ Maxx or Trader Joes only a few minutes away.  I’m not sure!  I get excited to check out a new restaurant in the city, but after two hours one way in traffic, I’m ready to head north to the green and open spaces in Wisconsin.  As soon as I cross the border, I breath easier.

When I think back to times in my life when I was not as happy.  A lot of the unhappiness stemmed from a lack of balance.  When I was working too much and not seeing my kids enough, having more money didn’t make up for the lack of balance.  I may not make as much money now, but the balance has brought happiness.

I guess the ancient Taoists knew what they were talking about when they came up with the concept of Yin and Yang.  This principle attests that there are two halves to every whole, and when one side dominates, the other works to bring the two back into balance.  This concept can be applied to many aspects of health and life, even if it is simple small steps in the direction of balance.

Are there areas in your life that you find are unbalanced?  What could you do to begin to restore that balance?  It might be as simple as going to a walk and enjoying some fresh air after a long day at work.

Watching these two sweet boys help out in the yard helps me feel balanced.

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Striking a Balance

We had just wrapped up Noah’s swimming lesson.  I told the boys that we could run into the craft store next door to grab a treat, and I was going to look at some fabric.  I was carrying Elliot in my arms, as well as the swim bag, and my purse.  It was a heavy load that slowed me down a bit.  Noah ran ahead, along the sidewalk and stopped in front of the entrance to the store.  I was maybe 20 yards behind him.

“Is this the right store?  May I go in?”  He shouted.

“Yep.  That’s it.  You may.”  I replied.

He skipped into the store.  Now, we live in a middle/upper-middle class suburb of Chicago.  It was a lazy spring morning.  The parking lot was not very full.  I strolled into the store.  Noah was still ahead, but I could see him.  The woman working the front post at the store immediately commented:

“Hey buddy, you’re getting ahead of mom there.”  “Whoa, be careful.”  She was older–a baby boomer.

I became upset/annoyed and mumbled, well, maybe it was a bit more than a mumble.  “He’s just fine.  He is not going to get hurt.”  “Not sure when letting your kid walk a few feet in front of you became a crime.”

Patch and I are known for teaching our kids to be independent.  My 2nd and 4rd graders walk to and from school on their own most days.  Our freshman in high school walks about 1 mile to and from school most days.  We encourage them to ride their bikes around our safe neighborhood or walk and see if their friends are out.

Yet, we frequently get comments of concern about their safety.  They wear helmets when they’re riding their bikes.  We ensure they know where they are going, if it is a new place.  We teach them about people who they do not know approaching them (God forbid) and what to do (don’t engage, and run home).  But, the concern continues.

I recall running and biking around my neighborhood (similar demographic to our current neighborhood) when I was young.  I don’t recall other parents being concerned about this.  What I don’t understand is how the ability to let our kids have a small amount of freedom in a safe environment has changed so much.  I feel like everywhere I go, adults are asking my kids, “Where is your adult?’  I hear them ask the question, so I am clearly not too far behind.  When did it become essential to be touching your child at all times in a public place?

I understand that terrible things have happened to some kids, and I would never wish that for anyone.  But, if you look at the statistics, it is highly unlikely.  I feel like sheltering kids and driving them everywhere (when it would be very easy, safe, and healthy for them to walk) is turning us into slaves and producing kids that lack confidence in their abilities.  We are depriving them of essential life skills that will serve them well in the future.

At the same time, I understand that parents want to protect their kids.  They don’t want them to be harmed.  But, a small amount of risk, sometimes reaps large gains.  Are parents willing to protect their children so vigilantly from harm, yet willing to highly risk their ability to navigate around, speak to others, and instill unnecessary fear in them?

I guess I’m looking for input.  I honestly find myself letting my kids having less freedom, not because I think they can’t handle it, but because I fear being accused of neglect by others.  It is frustrating.  I’m curious to hear what other think.  I know other parents struggle with this.  In fact, I was so happy to hear about a law in Utah that says parents will not be accused of neglect for letting their kids outside without supervision.  She this article.

I want my children to grow into happy, confident, capable, respectful adults.  I see every day that they are more capable and willing than they are often given credit for.  I strive to give them the support and guidance they need to one day be happy, caring adults.  I hope that the careful freedom I give them helps them in the future.

I’d love to hear what others think about this struggle for balance between too much protection and too much freedom.  Feel free to comment!

 

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New Year’s Contemplations

As we wind down from the chaos that was Christmas 2017, my thoughts have begun to turn to the new year.  What would I like to accomplish in 2018?  How can I simplify things and try to savor the time I have with my kids (instead of flipping out about the tornado that hit our great room–for the fourth time this week)?  What can we do to budget better in order to enable our family to do more of the things we dream of doing together?  How can we give more and take less?  How can I be better at managing paper?  (I never imagined the mass quantity of paper that would enter my house on a daily basis–help!)  How can we meal plan and prep in order to eat healthy, while not spending too much time in the kitchen on weeknights?  I am positive and hopeful about what this year will hold.  What are your hopes and resolutions for 2018?

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