fitness goals of an eight year old

It’s a changing world. And because life has so drastically changed in the 21st century, millennials everywhere are facing academic realities far more ridiculous than any of us or our parents ever endured.

Take for instance, the Fitness Goals assignment that came home the other day swaddled  amongst thirty-two other papers, containing everything from reminders about PTO meetings, PTO fundraisers, order forms for school logo emblazoned hoodies and T shirts to benefit the PTO, Casino Night, Ladies Night Out, the third teacher appreciation week this year, and up to sixteen homework assignments spastically adorned with purple ink requiring my signature.
I’ve got a 15 year old and an 9 year old, so I remember when all this madness began. When my 15 year old was just starting school it was still okay to bring homemade cupcakes to birthday celebrations, the first ingredient could be anything, and while we were still deluged with requests to sell everything from Pampered Chef to Entertainment books for the PTO, it wasn’t as out of hand as it is now.

I get that childhood obesity is at an all-time high and kids have allergies to all sorts of things now for some inexplicable reason. Or maybe it is explicable, but nobody’s ever explained it to me. I am in full agreement that if little Sammy has a peanut allergy, we all need to be careful. But sometimes it all seems a bit over the top.

First of all, it starts at home. If Susie is consuming a steady diet of Ring Dings while sitting on the couch ten hours a day, with no vegetables in sight, then yes, we have a problem. No amount of birthday cupcakes are going to change that. Maybe I’d take the school board a little more seriously if the cafeteria didn’t serve fifteen variations of chicken nuggets every week with pizza being the only alternative.

My kids won’t eat the school lunches. Some mornings I wish it were as simple as stuffing a fiver in their pockets, but ultimately I’m glad they’d rather not subsist on a steady diet of pink goo.

So when the homework assignment tucked into my 9 year old’s binder said “Outline your fitness goals for 2015”, I about flipped my lid.

Fitness goals? For 2015? For third graders?

I understand there are legions of kids sitting around playing video games, never going out into the showiness of nature, never picking up a ball and throwing it, never riding bikes, and so forth. But do 9 year olds have goals for anything other than jumping off the school bus, tearing through the door, dropping their ten-pound backpack, grabbing a snack and settling into some much deserved down time?

They shouldn’t. And they probably don’t. Unless they’re the 6 year old who was on Ellen reciting the state capitals backwards and forwards in under 30 seconds because his parents coached him from the time he could program the DVR (which was when he was two, by the way).

So my son and I hover over the homework sheet.

“Buddy, what are you supposed to do, actually.” I ask.

“I dunno. Stuff about what you’re gonna do this year. You know, to exercise and stuff.”

“You mean like, ‘I’m going to do 600 jumping jacks and run around the block 32 times?” I ponder.

“I guess.” he shrugs.

Let me ask you this: what third grader thoughtfully plans out a mission statement for an entire year of physical activity? Sheryl Sandberg? “I will lean in a total of 432 times this year.”

So we’re staring at the worksheet. No, actually I’m staring at the worksheet. He’s staring at his snowflake pencil eraser; the one he got instead of a cupcake at a classroom birthday party. The kid has enough pencils to fortify a small country from an attack by the Serbs.

“What do you think you want to do this year, buddy? I mean, physically.”

“Um…800 billion gazillion jumping jacks?” he estimates.

That sounded about right. It perfectly illustrated how completely ludicrous this assignment really was.

Listen, when he’s ready to consider his future as a Fortune 500 CEO, he can discuss his fitness goals with his trainer. But for now, he’s just a little boy who only wants to engage in spontaneous play.

So here are the fitness goals of my eight year old, as estimated on his homework assignment:

▪ 800 billion gazillion jumping jacks
▪ 7,000 miles of bicycling (take that Lance Armstrong. My kid plans to do it sans steroids)
▪ A bunch of karate chops with Chuck Norris (because “Chuck Norris is awesome”)
▪ 600 trips to the kitchen for snacks (you know, just to be ironic)

I’d like to know what the school board’s fitness plans are for 2015. I know the teachers have to follow the curriculum set forth by the school district, that’s passed down from state government, which, ironically, is governed here in New Jersey by Chris Christie. But will any of them ever realize just how silly some of it is? Because my 9 year old does. And frankly, sometimes I think he could run circles around them.

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Photo by Korean Resource Center / CC BY