Positive Interactions: How Friends Affect Our Health
By Laura Cipullo, RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom
I needed to keep my two boys as active as possible during their spring break from school. My intent was to safeguard their physical health—and my own personal mental health as well! We shared a fun-filled week. Although we did engage in some “brainy” activities like touring the Math Museum, we truly stretched our bodies and minds rock climbing.
Yup, thanks to my wonderful clients (they teach me things too!), I was introduced to indoor rock climbing. I have rock climbed in Colorado but never thought it would become an afternoon activity I could replicate here in NYC. Well…we did it…and will definitely be doing it again.
My “mommy” friend and I rounded up our children, and literally, up they all went! My older son Bobby has always been a little timid about rock climbing. He was about five years old the first time I introduced him to the sport…and he was positively terrified. As you might easily imagine, I was so very disappointed. I had paid for a full semester of mommy and son rock climbing! But now with some extra age plus the addition of his younger brother and his two peers, he just had to become highly self-motivated. Upon our arrival at the rock-climbing venue however, Bobby told me he wasn’t going to climb. Before I could say anything, my friend Abby said: “That’s okay. You can just watch.” Thank goodness she had responded to him first; it influenced me in a very positive way. I casually chimed in: “Yeah, don’t worry, you can just watch.” So, because the pressure had been removed, he decided to do it on his own. He saw the other three kids—including his younger brother Billy—happily putting on their harnesses and clipping in. I think he decided against letting his fears be the cause of his missing out on all of the fun. I also wonder if the fact that his friends were girls, and they were excited to rock climb, had any bearing on his decision. He even told the instructor he wasn’t sure if he was climbing. But, as soon as he saw the girls and Billy go up, he clearly said: “I’m next!” And he truly had the best time!
Wow! What a confidence booster for Bobby and real assurance for me about not pressuring my kids into doing anything they may not immediately embrace. Abby’s (the other mom) demeanor was great. When I thanked her for unknowingly helping me through the difficult earlier moment, she just laughed. And then she told me that if it had been her kids, she too would have been urging them to try and just do it. So while I was supported by my peer, my older son also was supported by his peers. All four kids were climbing “rock stars”! I was so jealous. Now I’m planning to go back to climb there myself.
After two hours of rock climbing, the kids were famished and the moms were exhausted just from watching. When we all headed out to share dinner, Billy had this wonderfully positive interaction. His little friend was dipping her bread in olive oil with salt and pepper. He simply adores her…and surely was influenced to follow her lead. Playing it very cool, he poured himself some olive oil and sprinkled salt and pepper on it. He dipped his bread with real pride. We moms laughed knowing how the kids had all been such great role models for each other that afternoon and evening. And what a great day the moms had too. My belly laughs, the delight of watching all four kids summit the climbs, plus having another mom to share the experiences with. Easily the best dose of good health ever!