I love being a dad. I've always known I would enjoy it, but I never imagined how much love I would have for my little boy. I grew up with babies constantly around me as I have a dozen nieces and nephews ranging from 2-20 years old. It's true what they say. You just can't understand the love until you have your own. Being in the health and fitness field, it always felt like my son would be my own personal experiment. I can finally take someone, literally from the first day of life, and implement everything I've learned to create the optimal human being. I think we all do that in some way or another. If not in relationship to our child's physical well-being, we often make vows to make sure our child is raised in a way that gives them advantages in other areas of life. Advantages that we wish we would have had. We make vows to make sure they never go through what we went through. To let them learn from our mistakes and our accomplishments.
I made it my mission to give my son the best possible chance of having a healthy physical body through the nutritional and fitness knowledge I've gained over 28 years of life. I'll have to write another blog on exactly what my wife and I have done and why we have done things this why, but that's not what I want to share this time. For now, I will just say that we have walked the perfect line (to our knowledge) in terms of nutrition and movement. And after 10 months, this is one of the biggest lessons I've learned:
You can never 100% control the outcome of another human being.
Here's what I mean. As health and fitness professionals, we strive to improve the lives of others. Sometimes that means helping someone lose weight. Other times that means helping an athlete reach peak performance. Yet other times, it's helping someone learn how to walk and feed themselves again. We fitness professionals pin our reputation, our self-worth (for right or wrong), our livelihood, and even our measure of life success (again for right or wrong) on helping others achieve positive outcomes. This, at times, is incredibly rewarding. It feeds our soul to serve others.
But the reality is, not everyone reaches their goals. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes commitment levels aren't high enough. Sometimes people can't afford the type of service or care that they need to truly reach their goals. Shoot, sometimes goals just aren't realistic. This is a true day in the life of every health and fitness professional you know. For various reasons, we can't always get people to their goals and it crushes us when we don't. It keeps us up at night. It racks our brains and drives us into hours of research searching for an answer. It causes us to question nearly everything we know and do at times.
But after 10 months of fatherhood, with a seemingly perfect setting with nearly every health related variable controlled, my son still battles regular skin issues and digestive irregularity. Now, there is of course the reasonable possibility that we are missing something. He's eating too much of this or not enough of that, or whatever. Say we're even off by 10%. Really? So 90% "perfection" isn't enough to keep his skin clean and his poos regular? C'mon! Herein lies the lesson; you can never control the outcome 100% and we should be okay with that.
We fitness professionals should be satisfied with the fact of doing everything in our power to help someone. That's all we can do.
I think this message is most valuable for every parent or future parent out there. Especially all you moms who often carry the heavier load. Please listen to me on this. Not everything that your child struggles with is your fault. Should we question our actions in the event of struggles? Of course. Educate yourself. Ask more questions. Try everything you can. But don't carry the burden of guilt or shame for your child's struggles. I can't tell you how many parents have come to me heartbroken because of various health issues in their children. You can feel when they blame themselves. They've tried to live up to a standard that they were never built to uphold. If you've done everything in your power and ability then you've got nothing to be ashamed of. Life happens. We must accept that we are not perfect and parenthood is quite an easy reminder of that.
In a day where every kid gets drilled in their head that life's success depends on a 4.0 GPA, a college athletic scholarship, or worldwide fame, we need to accept and teach the reality that: 1) Not achieving those things doesn't define you and 2) Achieving those things doesn't necessarily equate to the "perfect" life they sometimes envision. You can do everything you think is right and still not get what you truly want. It's not always in your hands.
Parents, health and fitness pros, children, and well, everyone; Can we stop beating ourselves up with impossible expectations? Can we strive for perfection while being prepared and satisfied with nearly missing the mark? Perhaps that's "unamerican". Or perhaps we need to redefine what it means to be American in this sense. I think the happiness and health of the younger generation may depend on it
If this has reached you on a personal level we would love to hear your thoughts!