First of all, it’s not because we’re bad parents. Or that we don’t care. Or that we’re too self-absorbed. Or that we have bad genes. Or that we have an extensive trauma history. Or that we have too much ego-investment in how well our kids turn out. Or that we have an unresolved Dark Heart. Nope. It’s none of those things.
In fact, many of our kids will actually live longer than us (and if you believe Ray Kurzweil, many may live a good hundred years longer!). But many of them won’t. And below are a few reasons why.
Naked Chef Jamie Oliver was on The Daily Show last week reporting on how the Superintendent of LA City Schools refused to let him near any of their cafeterias. And for good reason: Oliver would have exposed the fact that the food served in the public schools, loaded with fats and refined sugars, was working powerfully against the best practices for optimal neural development. I’ve already devoted several columns to the inhibiting effects of obesity on brain gain, but just pointing to the problem is not going to change the American diet much. Parents and professionals need to join together and actually get actively involved. If our schools were feeding our kids a fast-acting poison like Drano, every community in America would be up in arms. But because fats and sugars work slowly and it’s difficult to make direct connections, like with many wonky things in American life (the financial system? or the political system?), it’s easy to simply accept the status quo. Until the next crises hit. And they most assuredly will.
Shortness is as Shortness Does
I once had a really sweet girlfriend who didn’t care the least that I had a big nose, belly fat or a weak chin. Her main complaint against me was that I was too short (for the record, I’m a little over six feet when wearing shoes with soles on them). Little did I realize but that she was expressing an unconscious Darwinian drive: taller people tend to have genes that produce children who live longer. And most prospective mothers want their babies to grow up and live a long, strong healthy life. (So, Marlyce, I forgive you for being a child of Charles).
When I look at myself in the mirror, I notice that I have a very long torso and disproportionately shorter legs. Since my father was six-foot three and my mother was five-foot-eight, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that I should have been taller than I am. It’s like my legs stopped growing before their time. I should also have been able to play full-court basketball as a kid without getting winded after ten minutes or so. Somewhere along the line my leg growth got stunted along with my lung capacity. And I have a sneaky suspicion that my mother’s smoking and drinking while she was pregnant with me might have had something to do with it, as this research seems to substantiate. Nicotine, carbon monoxide and alcohol are not the best nutrients for oxygenating a brain necessary for growing a strong, tall, healthy baby boy. And COPD has already killed my older sister.
Shopping to Keep From Dropping
How many parents really take the time to teach their kids all the ins and outs of skillful shopping? Turns out that Science Says … frequent shopping leads to a much longer life, especially for older men! Isn’t that special?
Since I hate shopping, it’s clear that I would be living far longer if my mother had introduced me to the joys of shopping much earlier. If she was really on top of her game, she would have introduced me to the awesome, collective power of Collaborative Consumption decades before Aussie social innovator Rachel Botsman does in this Ted Talk. Today, you would be getting super-great buys on all the things I no longer need or want or that my brain has outgrown the thrill of (Collaborative consumption is sort of like how the local Drewslist works here on South Whidbey Island).
The Perils of Taking Life Sitting Down
Finally, I’ve often been curious about the fact that so many spiritual traditions have physical movement as a disciplined part of regular practice: Shakers shake, Dervishes whirl, Subuds do latihan, Buddhists walk, Evangelicals sing and dance and clap. Well, it turns out that movement is extraordinarily good for learning, brain growth and human development. Not to mention keeping the weight off, as this recent NYT article, using motion-tracking underwear – Is Sitting a Lethal Activity? – describes in surprising detail. The chair-based corporate cubicle lifestyle is sapping the soul of America. In addition, it’s situations where we feel stuck and can’t move that tend to end up producing dissociation capsules in the brain and “energy cysts” in the body. I’ve had to actively grieve for the loss of creativity and deep learning I failed to realize as a result of all those thousands of tedious hours I’ve sat in classroom after classroom in desks straight-lined from the front to the back of the room, simply because I didn’t know any better. I’m sure that it’s also contributed to shortening my life as well. Better luck next go around for me, I guess.