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Nov 7, 2013
09:00 AM
Health Kick

Head Games

Head Games


If I were to boil down my intended parenting style to a one-sentence mantra, it would be "I am not that mom."

We all know her. It's the mom who drives you crazy with her over-involved, over-protective, over-everything approach to child rearing. I want to feed my children a healthy diet, but I don't want to be the mom who is so insistent on it that I won't let my kids partake in group snacks or never take hot lunch at school. I don't want to handpick my kids' friends until they graduate from high school. I won't be the mom who roots through her ten-year-old son's backpack to make sure he does his homework. I ask him if he finished it and I believe his answer. I don't double check. It's his homework, after all. I don't set out my daughter's clothes. I don't insist that she match or convince her that her brown cabled tights don't look good with her white seersucker sundress. I am not the mom who insists that her clothes match. Clean and weather appropriate is as far as I go, and I don't always go there.

My middle-of-the-road strategy is born of many things. Mostly I don't care enough to take a stand. Sure, I care enough to set some basic parameters, but not enough to wage a war or set myself apart. I'm clearly just not that principled. I go through my phases. I tossed plastic bottles and avoided BPA-lined cans, but eventually I tired of the vigilance and gave up. I am awash in guilt every time I make chili and open a can of Hunt's petite-diced tomatoes. I never bought Pringles or Lucky Charms or Ritz crackers until my kids both learned to read and pestered me with such petulance that I surrendered. We don't have them all the time, but we do have them and I do pay for them. I can no longer blame the grandparents. 

The reality is that I've known this for a while. But what has really driven it home is football. I think I have read every article on the evils of football. No sport generates more concussions. An NFL career is nasty, brutal and short, but still long enough to shorten life spans and accelerate memory loss. It doesn't even take a concussion to mess up football players' heads. The repeated symptomless jarring is enough to cause brain damage. The dangers are bad at every level. Even little kids are at risk because their coaches don't always know the signs of concussions or they don't teach proper technique. The hits only get harder as the kids get older.

Helmet technology isn't enough, as new studies are bearing out. The only thing that seems to safeguard kids from football-related head injuries is to keep them from playing football. Sounds easy, right? Just say no. Explain the dangers. Encourage soccer. Agree to toss the pigskin around in the yard together. Argue that Dad didn't play football and he turned out just fine.

Only I know what I'm going to do.

My ten-year-old son wears jerseys to school. He asked for a tackling dummy for his birthday. He reads about famous quarterbacks before he goes to bed. He joins fantasy leagues. He memorizes stats. He identifies plays and penalties. He voluntarily does drills. He throws a ball through a tire.

He's also built like a lineman and has a competitive streak longer than his mom's (and that's something).

He hasn't even asked if he could play. It's assumed. I never say no to sports. I encourage athletics and activity. He doesn't even realize that it could be up for debate.

Because it isn't. We're going to fill out the forms and pay our fees and suit him up in pads and send him off to Pee Wee football next summer. My kid knows it. His dad knows it. I know it. If there were ever a time to be that mom, this would be it. But I'm not that mom. Instead of saying no, I'm going to cross my fingers and say a little prayer in my head and hold my hand over my heart every time he takes the field. I'm going to do what all the other football moms do. I'm going to put it out of my mind, hope that we end up on the right side of the statistics, pray that they figure out ways to make the game safer, and cheer like crazy for my talented little guy. For better or worse, that's the mom I am.

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About This Blog

Contrary to the title of this blog, I'm not always on a health kick. I try (for the most part) to eat well and exercise regularly, but I'm far, far from perfect. I do, though, enjoy learning about health trends and scientific discoveries, and I hope to share information and pose questions that you might find interesting or useful. Hey, if you get a little inspired while you're reading, all the better. Just don't expect it on a regular basis. I'm a writer, not a celebrity trainer.

Why health? Well, I've been around the block enough times that I don't take it for granted anymore. I also recognize that our health is the result of myriad factors ranging from genetics to diet to habits to socioeconomic status to prejudices and beyond. It's a complicated puzzle with different pieces for each of us. That means there are few guarantees or absolutes and still a ton to discover. I never liked the rigidity of science in practice, but I love the insights it produces.

So let's start 2013 on a Health Kick. With any luck, we'll all be better for it.

– Jennifer Garrett 

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