Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Great Debate

               Reading Mandi’s recent blog about preparing her entire life and family for a 2 month trial has got me started thinking… About how lucky I am in my own situation. I can almost be assured that I will be home every night around 5:30p.m.  I have the luxury of declining meetings that start after 5 and the only real work-related night obligation I have occurs once a month on the same day.  There are hardly ever any “Oh my God, what am I going to do?!” moments, which is good, ‘cause I don’t handle that kind of stress well. 
                It also makes it very easy to plan family things at night. But I will be honest, when I'm done with work I just want to be home. So when my children decided they did not want to take piano lessons any more, we cancelled the lessons. I was disappointed because B was pretty good, but if they were not interested in practicing, I figure what was the point?  I got through life without knowing how to play the piano; so can they.  The same is true with soccer this fall. H had such a terrible experience last spring that I’m about ready to boycott soccer altogether.  At B’s age, the teams travel and have games on every Saturday.  We do most of our fun outdoor activities in the fall, and the kids always grouse about having to go to practice anyway…       Neither of them is involved in any other extra-curricular sport right now.  When they are old enough, they can participate in sports offered through the school, and if either of them insists on playing Spring soccer, we will let them. Haley has said she wants to do dance but that is a major time and money investment, neither of which I am willing to make right now, based upon her reluctance to follow through with things.  
                I know that to some parents it may seem like we are encouraging quitting or depriving our kids of opportunities. I know lots of other parents have their kids enrolled in lots of things – dance, tumbling, soccer, T-ball…everything.  One friend of mine had all of her boys enrolled in organized sports – all of them - from the tender age of 4.  She has three boys and often they had overlapping or conflicting schedules.  They were running around from field to field almost every day.  B was only a baby, then, so I had no frame of reference at the time.  She explained to me that if the kids don't have that early exposure, they won't know what they like or what they are good at when they become older. I appreciate the philosophy: “The world is a competitive place: better get that used to it, early.”  I don’t entirely disagree with that philosophy, especially since some parents hold their children back a year so they are the biggest and oldest in their class when they grow up and play sports. (It’s true!)
                I just happen to think that less emphasis should be placed on being great at something, and more emphasis on doing what you enjoy.  Especially when it comes to sports, I think that childhood should be fun and if the kids are not 100% invested, their time is the best spent on other things.  The percentage of children who grow up to get sports scholarships is negligible, so realistically I don’t think we’re destroying any dreams. I also think, in fact I know, that my family’s “family time” is better when the kids are not super-extended.  We don’t function very happily in the car – “He’s touching me!” “She’s lying!” etc.,
                Supporting your children is important, and I go to every game and every practice I can when the kids are on teams. I enjoy it when they enjoy it.  I am not competitive by nature and neither are my children. So if they are not having fun doing organized activities, then our time is better spent having family fun doing something we all enjoy.  They have both decided to participate in Scouts; they are enrolled and I am the Treasurer of the Cub Scouts.  Now, they have an obligation to their groups. They will stay in Scouts, at least through the year, whether they decide they love it or not. Just like they had to stay in soccer last spring: participating in practices and games, even when their interest lagged. If they decide they don't want to do it again next year, it will be there choice. I will support them but I won't force them to continue it if they don’t like it.  Partly because I don't want to go back to the days of running around every night, but mostly because I think they should have the opportunity to explore and decide what they like on their own.


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