Saturday, July 12, 2008

Total Physical Exhaustion: Thanks Coach!

Coach Jake, a lifelong friend of Mimi’s died this week. They were born about 3 weeks apart and grew up as neighbors, They dated, broke up and remained friends. As adults, our families have always been friends. As grandparents, they talked on the phone or visited regularly, and Mimi plays cards with Mrs. Jake every week. Jake and Mimi have always been a part of each other's lives. He had exactly the same over-the-top yet inexplicably natural southern drawl. Only in a gravelly coach's voice. Most of Mimi’s tales of growing up in a little southern town before WWII involve Jake. It has been a strong and graceful relationship.

In addition to being a coach, Jake ran a summer day camp for boys for years. It was during Day Camp that I, as a mother, learned the value of Total Physical Exhaustion. BigB started going to camp the instant he was old enough - he was about 5. It wasn't a moment too soon. The camper's creed included the phrases "do my best" and "get along with others", basic tenets best instilled early.
A day at camp was a guarantee of Total Physical Exhaustion. Also a guarantee of head lice, because of the caps they passed among each other. If the day camp was happening now, I would make sure that our Young Son, now too old to be a camper, was working there. And I would
stock up on the head-lice products.
Total Phyiscal Exhaustion (the abreve is TPE for you texters) is a nirvana-like state achieved when a child has tried hard, sweated a lot, had fun and is now completely compliant because it’s too taxing to resist. Glazed eyes, gleam of sweat on the skin, wet hair plastered to the neck are the hallmarks of TPE.
PPP is not in TPE here, just for comparison sake. She is in a giddy state of euphoria coupled with panic over going on a trip to Mexico in a mere 18 hours. She will go straight from this state to sound asleep, nothing in-between. She slides right through TPE to dream-land.
Total Physical Exhaustion is an invaluable behavior management tool for children of all ages. It's way past "tired and cranky, tired and whining, tired and tantrumming."
Our friend Little Bear here got home from 2 weeks at camp on Thursday night. Friday morning, he was heading out for a 10 day mission trip to Mexico. Camp followed several weeks in Guatemala. He glared directly at me every time I even raised the camera. If you see THAT look, you've got it.
TPE is a cornerstone of my child-rearing theories, which are thoroughly researched and backed by years of clinical study and practical application in a child psychology lab. OR...I started reading a couple of books when BigB was about 5, and went to a Christian parenting seminar because I was on the church committee that planned it. I didn’t actually listen to the Christian parenting talk, because I was an Important Person in charge of making sure the chairs were set up. Then, I just went with trial and error. I don't know the bible verses that support TPE, but I feel sure there are some. It's just too good not to be biblical.With Total Physical Exhaustion, my child is so worn out he doesn’t waste energy in discussions he will eventually lose.
  • Shower? OK, shall I put my pajamas on - even though the sun won't go down for 3 hours?
  • Summer reading - I would be delighted to read now, Mom.
  • Watch the Little Mermaid with my sister? Sure, I’ve seen it 27 times this week, but there’s always something new and different in a Disney movie, isn’t there?

By the end of the day, I want my children to be too tired to argue, whine, fight, or be bored. It is also an early example of ‘leaving it all on the field’ or ‘giving 110%’ – illusive concepts taught at Day Camp, embodied in TPE. These lax boys appear to be praying for TPE...they got rain.

These days there is no day camp, so it takes a solid effort on my part to achieve Total Physical Exhaustion in the Young Son. Yard work is a big help. The Sophisticate and BigB are out of my reach now, but they had their day. It involved swim practice twice a day, the trampoline, building something in the back yard, bicycles, yard work, walking the dogs and a lot of time outside, for Vitamin D.
In pursuit of TPE, the Young Son starts his day with football workout, comes home and beats on the punching bag for a while. And eats. He informed me that he needs roughly 4000 calories to support this activity level. For the record, he's the only person in the family who needs 4000 calories.
Add in activities with La Petite Jockette, his GF, lacrosse and watching Jeopardy, we usually achieve TPE. Sometimes, we throw in some hard manual labor, just to make sure. And there's always 'the bag.'
I have been accused, unjustly I assure you, that it’s "too much.” All I have to say to doubting mothers is, “Are you yelling at your children? Trying to come up with things for them to do? Are you refereeing arguments about stupid stuff?”
Well, I’m not because my children are TOO TIRED. Busy children aren’t bored. Bored children find something to entertain themselves. Best case, that something is “self-directed discovery” and “ the joy of exploring God's creation” - noble stuff. Otherwise, it often means TROUBLE. The bigger the kid, the bigger the trouble.
My point exactly, Total Physical Exhaustion. Thank you, Jake, from the bottom of my heart.


Kat said...

I wish I could achieve TPE with my boys every day. Those little suckers never seem to run out of energy. I think we only got TPE twice this summer no matter how hard I was trying. Ah well.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. I appreciate it! :)

Life in the Crazy Lane said...

I always find that an afternoon in the pool or the front yard on a sunny day usually gets my kids into bed an hour early. They still manage to fight, though (girly bickering).

RURAL magazine said...

Does TPE still happen when we reach adulthood? Because there are some day.......


Amanda said...

Yes, i'm with Kathryn all the way!
My kids run on batteries. All the time!
Thanks for leaving a kind message on my blog.
Amanda x

kb said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog.

I think TPE definitely works with adults too. I teach English to preschoolers and elementary schoolers in Tokyo and commute by bike about 30miles a day. After biking that much, I never lose my temper any more.

We get kids coming in totally hyper because they've been to school and then to cram school (to prep them for the Jr. High school entrance tests ) and then to my English school class and are only 9 years old.

First thing, get 'em running and worn out before they'll be happy to sit down and learn more.