Every fall my kids’ school does this thing where they send home forms for parents to fill out regarding their children’s physical activity. Kids are supposed to achieve 60 minutes of exercise every day for a week, parents are supposed to track how much and what kind of exercise their kids got, note it all down on the form, and then submit it to the school. If your kid hits the goal, he gets entered into a drawing for prizes.
I hate the stupid thing.
So this year, our family didn’t participate. I didn’t make the kids exercise, I had nothing to track, and no form worth turning in. I just ignored the thing and hoped it wouldn’t come up again. But wouldn’t you know it: my kids kept coming home saying they needed to turn in that blasted form.
Finally, I snapped. I wrote their teachers a letter.
Dear Mrs. Homeroom Teacher,*
I suppose I should have reached out to you sooner, but when I saw the note in Johnny’s* planner requesting his Project FIT* form, even if it wasn’t filled out, I figured that a late letter of explanation to you was better than none at all.
The truth is, I hate Project FIT.
And with three kids now bringing home the form, I thought back on our previous four years of Project FIT misery and I made the executive decision not to do it this year.
With five young kids at home, many evenings it’s all I can do to make dinner, get everybody fed, make sure homework is done, help kids review their math facts and sight words, get them to read for 20 minutes, and then get everyone ready for bed. Not to mention fitting in Cub Scouts and religious education and preschool co-op meetings and whatever other extracurriculars we’re currently participating in.
With my kids’ remaining evening free time (and sometimes they have very little), I like to just let them play. They go out in the yard and add onto their fort, or they dig in the dirt, or they track wild creatures. They come inside and draw, or build LEGO creations, or set up battle scenes of little green army men all over the floor. Yesterday Johnny raked leaves into piles and let his little sisters bury him in them.
Kids need that time – that free, unstructured time in which to relax and imagine and create.
I don’t want to take it away from them in order to enforce some challenge that essentially just aims to make the point that physical activity is important. (Shouldn’t everyone know that by now?)
Maybe when other families do Project FIT they can count in soccer practice or the time that their kids are already playing basketball in the driveway. But my kids are not sporty. They don’t choose to spend their playtime kicking around a soccer ball in the yard. When we’ve done Project FIT in the past, it generally comes down to me calculating how much time they had at recess and PE that day, figuring out how much more time they need to get to sixty minutes, and then sending them outside to run laps around the house or something.
It is miserable, and I honestly think it does our family more harm than good.
So this year I decided to be a rebel and not fill out the form. Instead, I made dinner in peace. I did not fill our evenings with more requirements than were good for us. I let my kids play in the dirt and build with LEGOS and not worry about checking off a million little boxes.
It was glorious.
*Not their real names. Obviously.
**Don’t worry – I included a nice little post script assuring the teachers that I didn’t blame them for the school’s program. And I don’t think they blame me either.