Staying healthy is probably easier for us with our lifestyle than it is for the average person. We don't have the stress of work, school, or a daily commute; we don't share a building with a crowd of colleagues or fellow students; we have time and the means to eat in a relaxed and nutritious way; we have the leisure to move our bodies and change activities throughout the day; and we don't have to take off work or school to take it easy when our bodies tell us to. We aren't health nuts, though. We like sendentary activities and junk food as much as the next family, so we try to make consciously healthy decisions, at least some of the time.
I'm the safety patrol in the family. I overdo the worry and nagging some. I occasionally deliver a pointy-fingered lecture. But even if my methods are fatiguing, my concern is justified. Accidents are easily the leading cause of death and severe injuries for children, and they're right up there for grown-ups, too.
My kids wear seatbelts and ride in carseats or boosters appropriate to their age and size. They wear bicycle helmets when riding. They wear life vests when they are in boats. I do all these things, too. I am paranoid about the dangers of roads and parking lots. And we don't ride ATVs.
Without completely neglecting our kids, we do give them room to explore, and they spend more hours per day in unsupervised play than most kids do. We've talked about the dangers of animals, electricity, fire, firearms, germs, hard surfaces, heights, knives, motor vehicles, plants, poisoning, sticks, strangers, rocks, ropes, water ... and everything else in our local environment.
I really do talk a lot about safety. But I also try to remember the wisdom of Dory, in Finding Nemo:
Marlin: I promised I'd never let anything happen to him.
Dory: Hmm. That's a funny thing to promise.
Dory: Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.
Diet and exercise
We know that the healthiest diet is a variety of primarily plant-based foods in moderation. We try to keep that in mind when we make our food purchases. Beyond that, our ideal is to simply let eating be a satisfying and enjoyable activity.
In general, the kids are allowed to eat anything that we purchase, and we don't limit how much they can eat, or strictly delineate meal times. If I notice that they're eating seems unbalanced, we'll talk about it a little bit, and they tend to straighten it out for themselves.
As a family, we often eat different foods at the same meal, and we're comfortable with that. In fact, if there's anything that guides our food choices, it's comfort -- we all try to eat the way that makes us feel best, and we encourage the kids to eat a variety and to pay attention to their bodies' needs. My breakfast is granola and yogurt, Joe's is oatmeal, and the kids like cereal and milk. Joe likes lettuce and garbanzo beans, I like spinach and cole vegetables. The menfolk eat a lot of bread, and if there's cheese in the house, it's only because I'm pacing myself. We all love fruit.
We spend a lot of time outdoors. If anyone in the family is at risk for Vitamin D deficiency, it would be me, but even I spend a good chunk of time in the sun, averaged over a week. We try to remember the sunblock, but we're not as diligent as we might be. We wear hats when we remember to, and the grown-ups wear sunglasses. But mostly we just try to avoid sunburn, and know the signs of skin cancer.
Joe and I try to cultivate habits of physical activity, taking the kids' energetic tempo as encouragement. We love walking and riding bikes, but neither of us likes to perform isolated exercises. The closest we come is doing a pull-up or two at the playground, and occasionally proving to ourselves that we can still do a dozen push-ups.
Vaccinations are safe and effective and they prevent deadly diseases. Robust herd immunity protects the unvaccinated, such as neonates and those who can't be vaccinated because of allergy or other conditions. We stay current on our shots. 'Nuff said.
The kids are in dirt and who knows what-all, day in and day out. They don't consistently wash behind their ears or inside their belly buttons. Really none of that is of great concern to us. Germ-o-phobia is futile. We all carry millions of germs with us everywhere, and if we want to live in the world we just have to accept germs. Our bodies are great at dealing with the ho-hum everyday exposure to all sorts of stuff, and we live happily while harboring dozens of strains of this and that.
The question is not how to avoid germs, but how to reduce the chance of getting sick from the nastiest ones. Because we travel, we frequently move our starship-scale colonies of germs into new territories -- territories occupied by germs our bodies aren't ready to fight. We wash our hands to protect ourselves and others, especially before and after visiting places where lots of people touch the same things. We try not to touch our faces with unwashed fingers. We prefer plain soap and water but we keep hand sanitizer around for when it's not available.
I wrote about planning for health care in my last post, and this one was about prevention. Despite our habits and reasonable efforts, occasionally we get sick or injured. In my next post, I'll share some of what we've learned about getting better.