About two years ago, I enrolled my 4 1/2-year-old son in martial arts. Nine months later his 7-year-old sister hopped in. The following month, my husband and I were hooked, and the following month my 9-year-old daughter joined in. This month, my last born turned 4 and now he too, is all-in!
I never set out with a goal to have something we’d all do together. I mean, I always dreamed I’d have little soccer players running around, but I just never realized that I wanted us to all have a shared family “love” for something in particular. Amazing things have happened since we all joined a sport together.
Here are my top 5 (unexpected) favorite things that happened when my family all dove into a common activity together.
1. We’re in the same place. Chances are, if you have more than one child, you are always in different places for sports and activities. One child is at gymnastics while another is at martial arts and mom is teaching a music class (this was my life for a while there). Depending on what you have chosen to do together, you may still have some schedule issues that leave people at different fields, but in general, you spend more time than not at the same place. In my mind, the more time a family can spend together the better. Of course, you may not always be interacting together, but you are in proximity, doing something near each other.
2. Conversations are understood, and it’s easy to encourage each other. Ever have a child come home from a sport you know nothing about and share all these exciting details to which you just nod and smile because there’s nothing else you could say? When you all have a shared sport/activity/hobby/etc. together, you understand what each other are talking about. It’s fun to be able to help a child recall a technical name for what they learned or say, “I worked on that today too!”. Being able to have a shared interest lends to wonderful conversations at home about not only the activity, but about friends and families from the gym that everyone knows. We can also encourage each other in the sports, since we all understand so much about what the other is experiencing. Each of us knows the excitement that comes along with receiving a new tip in martial arts or stripe in jiu jitsu. Having your own personal team of cheerleaders at home is the best feeling ever. When we have tough days, we can all sympathize. The sport and its challenges are familiar to each of us. We all get it.
3. We know how to help one another. When a kiddo comes home with a question about what they learned, there’s almost always someone in the house who knows the answer. Even better…the kids will often help each other figure out the answers. Nothing better than siblings learning how to help one another!
4. My husband and I set a copy-able example for health and exercise for our children. Since our shared family love is a sport, our children get to live in a monkey-see, monkey-do kinda world for fitness. They watch us work out hard and then they hop on the mat and do the same. It’s no longer just us telling them that they should exercise everyday, but we are showing them, as well. Having a shared activity allows children to watch their parents push through difficult things, struggle, get back up, and succeed. When else do kids get to watch their parents do that in a context that makes sense to them?
5. My children make ME practice what I preach. “Don’t worry about what others think of you…if you want to do something, do it for yourself,” is really easy to say until you are a female just jumping into the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a class full of men you’ve never met. And your kids are watching. And they call you on it….because you just told this to one of them the week before. And you’re freaking out because your friends aren’t there. So what do you do? You buck up and follow your own advice while your kids watch. And it’s an amazing and empowering experience-both for yourself and for your daughters who struggle with the same thing.
I am still dumbfounded that I somehow landed in the world of martial arts, but I am so thankful that I did. Even more, I’m thankful that I’ve found something that our entire family can share. I wholeheartedly encourage you to find a family “thing” together. Something you can all do, regardless of age. Something that is fun, challenging, and rewarding. Something. Find it. You’ll be glad you did.