I'm game if you are

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am


Families who run together have fun together. I can't disagree with that. Fitness is very important to our family. Physical activity is good for our bodies and minds, and it provides another way for our family to develop strong bonds.

Sport runs in the family. My husband is from northern England and grew up playing cricket. He played here until fatherhood got in the way. He is a diehard rugby fan, and it is a passion he shares with our eldest daughter, along with golf. Our daughters also play football.

I grew up in the exurbs of a Canadian prairie city, so baseball was the big thing in summer. Then it was ice skating and jam pail curling in winter. (There were no girls' ice hockey teams back in the day.) Although I loved to play, I was not a stand-out. It wasn't until high school, when the focus of gym programmes went from team sports to ones that had an element of 'individualism', that I really became comfortable in gym class.

All of a sudden, it seems, I found out I was good at something outside the classroom. I excelled at archery and cross country running, I surprised myself by realising I could finish a 10-kilometre run. All I needed was an opportunity to find that out. I see this experience as a formative event.

It showed me that we can all be good at a wide variety of endeavours, and that we shouldn't pigeon-hole ourselves or let others try to do that with schoolyard labels. We can be everything we want to be, and we should never hesitate to give it a go. As a parent, I see it as job number one to introduce my children to as many different experiences as I can. I like to observe how they react and where their interests and skills lie. Then I can help them figure out how they want to take it forward.

This has resulted in some interesting activities and experiences. One summer I took my children on an 'eco-journey' to Iceland, where we rode on hydrogen-powered coaches, toured geothermal plants and played golf under the midnight sun.

We hiked the pristine hills around the capital, Reykjavik, by day, and swam in the geothermally heated public swimming pools in the evenings. My children have been ice fishing in Canada, and to Green School in Bali, where they planted rice in muddy warm paddies and learned to make chocolate straight from the cacao pod.

Everything has been memorable. Some things we wouldn't do again - too much work. But our experiences have made us closer. Sometimes my efforts paid dividends later: my daughter cited learning Apsara dancing at a school of performing arts in Cambodia as one of her proudest achievements as a dancer.

As a parent, I am well aware that children learn by example. I believe what we do influences our children the most. It is a case of showing rather than telling. I have always made an effort to show my kids that mum likes to lead an active life. When they were toddlers, they complained when mummy went to the gym. But as they grew, they understood the importance of this routine. They cheered when I came home from Macau with a medal from my first half-marathon.

Last year, my eldest started running alongside me in a 10-kilometre race. Her idea was to give me moral support. But she ended up enjoying the experience so much, she went all the way to the finish line. She finished about five minutes behind dad - and five minutes ahead of me. We couldn't have been more proud of each other. I do yoga, too, and everyone makes fun of my exercise positions. But at least my children know that 'this is what families do'. The ribbing I take is just part of a mum's job description.

We are always looking for something new and have recently discovered the secret society of geocachers. Geocaching is a cross between orienteering and a scavenger hunt. It involves GPS-enabled devices and secret caches strategically placed in public spaces, in wooded areas, and on mountaintops. Secret messages are written and shared. It can involve arduous hiking. Sometimes there's treasure. We have become quite obsessed with the activity. It keeps us all busy and together.

Karmel Schreyer is a freelance writer and mother of two