Why I’m Jumping Up and Down

Yesterday, I receive a large, bumpy envelope in the mail from the Baker family.  I know it’s gonna be good. 

This is from the mother who advised me that the sign of a happy childhood is dirty children.   This family doesn’t own a television set, and the children don’t play computer games.  Whenever they come to visit, I’m inspired to find new ways to take my children away from the screen. 

Just yesterday, we walk in the woods. 

My daughter’s image blurs as she races away. 

Breathless from running, she pauses to show me leaves larger than she knew existed. 

Back home, I remember how much I want to keep my children (and myself) moving.  

I open the large envelope and find a gift from the family-who-owns-no-television.  

It’s new double-dutch jump ropes!  My friend has sent long jump ropes made of soft rope that don’t hurt your ankles when you mess up.

Her timing is perfect.  Monday night, we resume our Neighborhood Double-Dutch Challenge in the parking lot.  Because of the time change and the warm weather, we can finally go back outside.   We’ll work on jumping in, turning the ropes for each other, and singing all the old songs. 

Who needs television when you have a double-dutch challenge? 

Journal:  What are my plans to move more this Spring? 


The Double Dutch Challenge

I learned Double Dutch with the neighborhood children.

I did it. Seriously, I did.

It was a community effort. One mom bought the jump ropes at a sporting goods store, one mom offered her vague memories of how to do it, and one mom agreed to turn the ropes with me.

We read an instruction booklet first.

So there we stood, us moms and dads, with all these children around us, rising to our newest neighborhood flair challenge: Learn Double Dutch jump rope.

It’s a terrific game to learn. Think about the fact that two ropes are turning in opposite directions, fast, and some child (or adult) jumps over these ropes in a sequence that resembles running in place or else doing little hops to avoid getting tangled up. We practiced turning the ropes (that’s a sport in itself), we sang traditional jump rope songs (something about candy), and soon, 6 children learned this skill. We cheered each time. We slapped high-fives. We celebrated like we were at the Olympic Games.

And then it was my turn.

I am an older woman, remember. Put it this way: I jiggle in places and need support in more ways than one. But I always wanted to learn Double Dutch, and for whatever reason, I never took the opportunity.

Well, now. If I’m going to live with flair, I can’t let this be.

It took me two tries, and I did it. I maybe jumped 5 times in total, and I didn’t get tangled up in ropes or anything. It’s actually not that hard once you learn to jump really fast. Now I’m moving on to performing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” moves while I Double-Dutch (thanks for the suggestion, friends).

What made it an overwhelming flair moment? Double Dutch represented the best of community organizing. We set a goal, we divided tasks, we gathered to accomplish our goal, and then we celebrated. As I teach my family about community service, I instill the value of building a neighborhood. We are learning how to gather people together around common goals.

Our neighborhood values physical fitness and raising children with the skills they need for life-long health. We can’t do this alone. We need the group.

Something about this shared task of learning Double Dutch felt truly authentic. I’m not sure how to define it other than to tell you that authentic community involves jump ropes. I keep them in my minivan at all times.

Besides, life is hard. Some days I feel like I’m trying to jump over ropes going in opposite directions with out-of-control schedules, sick children, working, and just living. But then I look up, see my community with their hands on the ropes, steadying me, encouraging me, looking me straight in the eyes and saying: You can do this, Heather! Ready, Set, Go! And the ropes turn, and the neighbors cheer, and then I’m doing it! I’m doing this impossible thing that I couldn’t do just yesterday!

Having a neighborhood that comes out to play after dinner is community flair. We value exercise, and now, we value it with flair. Living with flair means keeping jump ropes in the back of your minivan just in case the neighbors come.