‘Do I have to bike today? It’s going to be too hot to ride home.”
The lad wanted to take the bus rather than biking the 7.5 kilometres to school.
Swallows were chirping and diving in the yard.
It was a blue-sky day, and the temperature was expected to rise to about 20 Celsius.
Hot, sure. But “too hot to ride home?”
Not a chance.
“You’re riding,” he was told.
The 12-year-old’s anger and frustration was starting to bubble to the surface, manifesting itself in a little whine and hip-hop-like gesticulations.
“Zut! Get your bike.”
At this age, a 12-year-old boy is often argumentative, pushy, difficult to motivate, often stubborn and … incredibly persistent.
They are starting to assert themselves.
And it can be exhausting.
Parents are busy.
If there are two parents — not a given anymore — both are usually working. They have to commute to work, put in a full day and commute home again.
There are breakfasts, lunches and dinners to make, dishes, laundry and houses to clean, homework to monitor, volunteer work and other general busy-ness.
Whether it’s an illusion or not, there seems to be a lot going on.
So, when the kids push, it’s often easier for parents to just say, “Alright, alright, enough already. Take the friggin’ bus.”
Or, “OK, OK, fine. You can watch TV.”
“Play on the computer.”
And, according to Active Health Kids Canada’s newest study, that’s precisely what Canadian parents are doing.
The average Canadian child is spending six hours a day in front of an illuminated screen of some kind.
The average child in Grades 6 to 10 logged seven hours and 25 minutes a day before a screen on weekends and five hours and 56 minutes on weekdays.
And that’s leisure time. It doesn’t include time spent doing homework or research.
Pediatricians recommend that teenaged children not exceed two hours a day. Preschoolers should be capped at one hour.
“This is displacing what would otherwise be active leisure time — it may not be (a) purposeful organized sport-type of thing, but it would be something other than sitting idle,” Mark Tremblay, the organization’s chief scientific officer, told the Globe and Mail.
“When you’re sitting idle, your metabolic rate is very low, and in fact when you’re watching television it’s barely above that related to sleeping.
“And so from an energy expenditure perspective, a muscle contraction perspective, this is not as good as even doing incidental movement.”
Children, like adults, have limited leisure time. And they value their time before the screen more than time on monkey bars.
“Partly what motivates us is what we value,” Nancy Gyurcsik, an associate professor in the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan told the Globe.
“What it says to me is that our youth are highly valuing screen time.”
It wasn’t that kids didn’t have access to parks.
More than 90 per cent of parents reported that there were parks and playgrounds near their homes. And 60 per cent met parental standards.
But only 34 per cent of the parents admitted their families used those parks.
The children didn’t want to go. The parents didn’t take them.
The experts didn’t know why that was so.
Figure that out, then perhaps society could start drawing more children outside, they said.
A good place to start might be charting pressures in the lives of the parents.
They face constant pressure on the home front.
“I wish it was cool like this coming home,” said my son as he pedalled downhill to school.
Once he realized there was no way out of biking, his demeanour changed.
He was happy. Cheerful even.
“It’s so hot coming up the hill in the afternoon.”
“Put your hoodie in your backpack and bike in your short-sleeved shirt,” he was reminded. “Drink lots of water before you leave.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said.
“I’ll be fine.” (RM)