Years ago, Ken and I lived in a great little community outside of Chicago. The property taxes were high but the people were great. And we were lucky to be there when the economy was in better shape. Our neighbors were having a lot of kids to show wealth and prosperity.
“Two kids? We have four. We’d have ten if we could just find the time.”
Our neighbors to the right, who were in their late 20s, had adorable twin boys who were feisty and combative. One day, I found those four-year-olds in the backyard beating the heck out one another. One boy was naked. The other was wearing pull-ups. And they were engaged in a weird wrestling match with poking and hair pulling. There was some yelling. They would start off at one end of the yard, run into one another like rugby players, and then roll around.
I went over and rang the doorbell.
“Uh, yeah, hello. Your kids are crazy.”
The dad laughed and said, “Yeah, we know. They are doing naked baby tough ruffs.”
The working theory that informed upper-middle-class parenting in the early part of the century is that you raise your boys to be boys — with sensitivity, I suppose. If they have energy to burn, you let them burn it off. If they are aggressive or obnoxious, you run that shit into the ground through physical exercise.
If my neighbors could have put those boys on a treadmill to calm them down, they would have done it.
I understand why they let those boys “work it out.” The link between exercise and a healthy mindset is not anecdotal. Nearly 30% of Britain’s population suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. I don’t have the numbers for the United States, but exercise can calm anxious minds and improve your general well-being.
(As a side note: whenever Emma and Scrubby start to wrestle, we always call tough ruffs. It cracks us up and it never ends badly. They work it out and then nap for eight hours.)
So I think there’s something to be said for vigorous physical activity — not as a means for losing weight — but to work out the stress and anxiety in your lives.
When you’re pissed off at work, go hit something soft — but hit it with the full force of your body. Go sprint up a flight of stairs to work off that passive-aggressive text message from your friend. Or go wrestle in the backyard with your brother.
Just keep your pants on.