I am having a problem with my children and my husband just indulges them. It is enough to make me scream! I have two school-age boys who get no physical activity outside of recess and gym class at school. My husband and I are on a tight budget due to student loan payments and a mortgage, so we cannot afford to sign them up for Little League or Pee Wee football, not that they would play if we did; they prefer to sit around the house watching TV and eating whatever junk food they can sneak.
I am a Nurse and I work third shift, so I am home to get my boys ready for school and off for the day. I pack nutritious lunches for them – fruit or yogurt, string cheese, vegetable chips, turkey sandwiches, etc. – but I get the impression that they swap with their friends for junk food. When they get home from school, they never want to go out and play and I am generally busy getting dinner ready before taking an after-dinner/before work nap to go outside and play with them. When my husband arrives home from work, he complains that he is too tired to play catch or touch football or even to go on a bike ride with the boys; he just wants to eat dinner and veg out in front of the TV. Tazi, he works at a desk all day, so it is not like he is physically exerting himself! On weekends, I can’t pry any of them away from the TV. What is worse, my husband will sit there with a beer and a bag of chips; although he will not let the boys drink beer he does let them eat potato chips “to keep them quiet on his day off”. Tazi, it is my day off, too, and this is not how I want to spend it!
I have pretty much given up on my husband as a lost cause, but I do not want my children developing his same bad habits! My younger son is already showing signs of developing a weight problem (he was 5 pounds over at his physical last month, which is significant for a young child). What can I do to get my kids active without coming off as the mean parent?
Dear Nurse Mom:
I think you need to start with your husband. When parents are not on the same page, children get mixed messages about what is acceptable behavior. Your husband may be tired after work, but what about you? You come home from work only to take care of your children before getting some sleep yourself, only to wake up and start all over again when they get home from school! When is your break? You need to start taking one before you fall apart!
While your husband may be too tired after work to play football, this should not excuse him from spending quality time with his sons. An invigorating walk or bike ride can work wonders for a person’s energy levels. Give your husband the option: every evening after work he can take the boys out for a walk or a bike ride or some other form of physical activity or he can make dinner while you take the boys out for half an hour of exercise. If he refuses to do either, follow through with your exercise just the same. When you return, you can throw together some sandwiches for you and your sons; let your husband fend for himself until he learns that marriage is a partnership and that in order to get he is going to have to start giving.
You will also have to start limiting the amount of TV your family watches. Are there other children in the neighborhood with whom you could organize activities? During the nice weather, children should be outside running around and playing games, not sitting inside glued to the TV. Watching television should be a rainy day activity only; this will not only cut down on their TV watching, but also their snacking on junk food. While you cannot parent your husband you can put your foot down and implement a rule of no food in the TV room. This will solve the problem of crumbs on the furniture and the floor as well as the issue of mindless snacking in front of the TV. The punishment for breaking this rule could be to immediately have to vacuum the carpets and the furniture.
In closing, I a going to recommend marital counseling and/or parenting classes for you and your husband; you need to learn to work together and to respect each other in order for both your marriage and your family life to work.
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.