I remember holding my daughter for the first time and looking into her eyes. Although small, her eyes told a story filled with infinite possibilities. I saw motherhood as being a lifetime of firsts – first words, first steps, first recital – each one flooding my heart with abundant joy and love.
As my “baby” turned into my “little princess”, I could see the change in her eyes.
Now when I look into her eyes, I can still see her beauty growing inside, but most importantly, when it comes to looking for a glimpse into what her future can be, I see that her brown eyes are right there, staring back at me.
My daughter is at a highly impressionable age, in which almost every experience doubles as a possible influence. Limiting her TV to PBS and videos has not been a strong enough gatekeeper to thwart the efforts of kid-targeted advertisers. Short of blindfolding my daughter in the grocery store, or leaving her behind, it’s hard to prevent her from being bombarded by the countless kid-targeted products, placed perfectly at her eye level – of course. And if the pressures on TV and the in-store advertisements weren’t hard enough, I have to compete with the greatest threat of all – kid-to-kid, word-of–mouth advertising.
The kids on the playground and in the classroom are like parakeets, repeating whatever they hear at home and sharing their likes and dislikes, which influences how my daughter perceives different foods. I’m constantly being told by advertisers, other parents, even my own daughter what I should be buying.
Wait a minute, Mr. Advertiser, unless you plan on contributing to her college fund and the weekly grocery budget, you don’t get to have a say in how my child is raised.
I felt like my voice was quickly becoming out numbered. If advertisers are spending more than $2 billion a year to target children, I’m going to need some reinforcements. That’s also when I realized one very important thing. Yes, there are many negative distractions vying for my daughter’s attention, but at the end of the day, her eyes are still on me. I get to decide what the next move will be. My decision was simple, reassert my role as CEO of my household, as the Head Product and Produce Inspector, as Chief Health and Wellness Ambassador, in other words- MOM.
I have a family history of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, but I’ve decided to pass on a different family tradition. One in which we live to prevent diabetes, not find ways to live in spite of it. The studies show that 1 in 3 children are projected to develop diabetes in their lifestyle, losing up to 23 years of life. But when I look into my daughter’s eyes, I’m reminded of the vow I took in my heart to love and protect her. And right now, statically, diabetes is her biggest threat.
You’ve probably heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I believe this has never been more true than today. I feel so grateful to have other friends and family in our lives whose actions reinforce our values of living a healthy lifestyle. My daughter’s eyes might be on me, but she’s also looking to see who else supports the values and ideal that I put forth.
(*Please click on each of the 10 numbers below to see the pictures.)
Since my daughter was born, we tried to be a living example of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. Each week we have a family day, which generally incorporates both family fun and physical activity. We also make a conscious decision to expose her to various forms of competitive events. Since before my daughter was 2 years old, she’s been going with us to cheer on our friends at their marathons. When we can’t cheer them on in person, we show her photos of the event and talk about their accomplishments.
“Come on guys, let’s run like Lindsay.”
Last month, I signed us up for our first Mother-Daughter 5k. Two weeks prior to our race, we cheered on her “Auntie” Lindsay at her first ½ marathon. My little runner’s eyes beamed as she watched Lindsay run towards the finish line. In that moment, my daughter idolized Lindsay, and my heart was happy. I knew that a new connection had been made, linking my daughter’s understanding of what exercise is and why we do it, to an actual desire to grow and develop as a runner.
After Lindsay’s ½ marathon, my daughter couldn’t wait to participate in her own race. She asked several times a day, every day, for two weeks, “When do I get to do my race Mommy?” Then she’d tell my husband, “Daddy, you have to cheer like Jarod (Lindsay’s husband), and say wooooo really loud. Okay Daddy?”
The day before the race, my daughter and I went to the pre-race expo and picked up our bibs. As we stood in line, my little runner told everybody within an earshot how she was going to “win” her race tomorrow. She’d say, “Are you running tomorrow, cause I am, and I’m gonna run super fast, so I can win.” Seeing her excitement filled my heart with joy.
After what seem like months to my mini-me, the day of our Mother-Daughter race finally came, but the circumstances were less than ideal. A huge storm came through San Diego that weekend. This part of sunny California was, well, anything but sunny.
The night before, I watched as the rain pelted against the window and the trees swayed. I didn’t want to get the mail in that weather, much less do a 5k. We had a little dress rehearsal, trying on several combinations of fleece jackets and rain gear. I tossed and turned throughout the night, worrying if I was making the right choice by subjecting her to such inclement weather. But then I remembered the cover of the Parents magazine that I just saw, “Raising a kid that won’t give up”.
Maybe this race can be much more than a lesson about physical activity and living a healthy lifestyle. It’s an opportunity to show my daughter that life is anything but easy, but we have a choice. We can cower and hide from adversity, or we can decide to dance in the rain. When we properly equip ourselves, we can fight through whatever we are going through, and come out a winner at the end.
On the big day, I quickly put in an appeal to God as we pulled away from the house. “Lord, I can handle the cold, but I don’t know if I can put my daughter through this rain.” Despite my growing anxiety, we headed towards the race, knowing I reserved the right to pull out of the race if I didn’t feel it was safe to continue. As soon as we approached the parking lot for the event, the rain stopped. I looked to the skies and smiled in gratitude.
My daughter talked about how excited she was during the car ride, but as soon as the wind hit her face, she began to get scared. “Mommy I want to go inside.” “Oh honey, we can’t go inside”, I said. “The race is outside. Don’t be scared. It’s just the wind, and you’ll warm up as soon as we get moving.”
I pinned her bib, #678, to her Hello Kitty rain jacket, and we were off. The first part of the course was the hardest, because my 32 pound child had to fight her way against 40 mile an hour winds. I held her hand tightly in my grasp; it was almost as if I were afraid the wind might take her away.
Before I knew it, my little competitor had turned her focus from the blistering winds and fringed weather to people in the race that she wanted to catch up to or pass. One was a little girl that was almost 2 years her elder.
Including the inevitable potty break – she is 4 after all – we crossed the finish line, hand-in-hand in less than 50 minutes.
It’s funny, because now when my little 5ker tells her story, she doesn’t bring up the cold weather or wind. She says, “I crossed the finish line with my mommy.”
When I see the world through my daughter’s eyes, I see plenty of negative temptations, but I also see hope. She is surrounded by so many people, parents, aunties and uncles, neighbors and friends, all helping to challenge what has become “the norm” and instead promote living healthfully.
As for me, our first Mommy and Me race is a day I will never forget. Thinking about what she accomplished, walking (evening running) her first 5K before the age of 5, fills me with tremendous amounts of love and pride.
I look back smiling, because it turns out it did shine brightly that day. It just wasn’t in the sky. It was on her face.
ABOUT ME: My name is Marlayna. I’ve recently shared my story about why I chose to LIVE MY LIFE WITH INTENTION- my life’s journey towards becoming who I am today (click here to read it). I’m a mother, wife, friend, and a diabetes prevention advocate. I occassionally blog about living a healthy lifestyle.