The Drevitches, Week 7: But What About the Children?

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

benjamin natalie drevitch picture

Benjamin and Natalie like to climb trees. Their other activities are a bit more costly. Credit: Gary Drevitch

When I tell people about the Healthy Families Challenge, they usually ask two questions: How much weight have you lost? And, what exactly are the kids supposed to do to get fit?

The answer to the first question is easy -- 16 pounds and counting. The second question is trickier because, while it's clear what our goals are for the kids nutritionally -- eat more fruits and vegetables, limit garbage snacks and desserts -- it's harder to pinpoint exactly what I want my 9-, 7-, and 4-year-olds to do to get in shape.

So, like a newbie politician planning a campaign, I've been on a "listening tour," talking to fellow parents about what their kids do for exercise. What I've heard is that my kids do less than their peers. This discovery raises questions about how city kids get exercise, and how much their parents have to sacrifice to make it happen.

At 9-year-old Benjamin's last Little League game of the fall, virtually every other dad behind the dugout was chatting about the upcoming "winter season" -- their sons all seemed to have plans for basketball teams, baseball skills clinics or indoor flag football. My plan for Benjamin? Well, if it snows, he'll go sledding. I had thought that was fine.

But now he's pushing me to enroll him in a winter baseball clinic, preferably to learn how to pitch.

Benjamin has been in Little League for four years, but had never pitched in a game until his fall-season coach let him to throw to the last batter of the season. There were two outs, and his team was holding a six-run lead. To everyone's surprise, he struck the batter out on three pitches. Now he wants more. Every night, he's closing all the doors off a short hallway in our apartment and using it as a bullpen, hurling very soft balls (not real baseballs -- we like our neighbors) at a target taped to a closet door. It's what a city kid comes up with, because he can't set up a pitching target in his backyard. And that's why baseball clinics outside of people's apartments are so in-demand, and so expensive, here.

Meanwhile, 7-year-old Natalie has been doing great in her once-a-week gymnastics class at New York Kids Club, which has an impressively professional air about it. Last week, her coaches recommended that she move up to the next level, the "Gymnastics Club." Most of her friends from last spring's class are already in the club, but, as parents, we don't really want to commit to the added expense and logistics of two afternoons each week. And yet, she likes it, she's good at it, and it's her main source of exercise other than the playground. Shouldn't we find a way for her to do it?

As a kid, I didn't play any organized sports. But as ParentDish columnist Lenore Skenazy has written, that was a time when suburban kids like me could stroll over to a friend's backyard when we wanted to play ball. Today, in New York City, if we want our kids to play, we need to enroll them. Pay tuition. Accompany them to practice.

Lynn and I have rearranged our schedules to make time for the gym. It appears we'll soon do more somersaults for the kids' activities. So far, Adam's once-a-week sports class, where he cavorts among fellow 4-year-olds with the coaches at the Jewish Community Center gym, overlaps nicely with his big siblings' schedules. But he's two years away from Little League -- and what if his team plays at the same time as big brother's?

We're fortunate that we have three healthy, fit kids (who still need to eat more fruit). Helping them stay that way, though, may require more of us than we thought it would.

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.



How is the Drevitch family doing? Check in on their progress!


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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.