I am proud to say that in twenty-one years of raising six children, I have been a soccer mom for a total of four months. In case you didn’t know, I don’t like being outside when it’s cold. Or hot. And being a soccer mom entails sitting outside in all sorts of weather that is not 70° and partly sunny, which has been scientifically proven to be the best weather in existence, especially for sitting–bored–in a lawn chair next to a grassy field.
I also have five children that lean more toward the arts or prefer working out at a club by themselves. Ada, though, is the odd one out. She loves sports more than all the other kids combined. She is always outside shooting baskets or begging to play catch (Mister finally got someone who wants to play catch. He’s thrilled!).
This year she started Middle School which meant she could be on the school basketball team. Oh boy, did she love it. She started out at a disadvantage, having never played basketball on a team. But her coach was patient and her teammates were encouraging and kind. She ended up her season adoring basketball and begging to play in another league. Oh yes, they won their championships too.
I’m not a big believer in getting kids involved in tons of extra-curricular activities. Yes, they get exposed to lots of things but how many of them truly become meaningful? Mostly, it’s just a lot of work for the parents and lots of more important things fall by the wayside instead. What is more important than tai kwan do for your five-year-old? How about learning to do chores? Particularly without complaining. Believe it or not, it’s your job to teach a kid to work hard, not a coach’s. What’s going to take your child further in life: learning that sometimes you have to buckle down and do things you don’t like but that if you get them done quickly, you have time for more interesting things or learning to do an arabesque?
If my child has shown a strong desire to do something, then we indulge that desire. But we don’t indulge all the desires. After basketball season ended, track started up. Most of Ada’s teammates were doing that too. But we, along with Ada, decided it was too much. Because ultimately it’s about the entire family, not just one person. Another sport means that much more practice and missing out on time to hang out with family and get homework done. And time to just be a kid: to go down to the neighborhood pond and mess around and make a village of pipe cleaner people and just do the fun ordinary things that kids don’t seem to do much anymore.
Somehow parents have decided that signing up our children for sports is THE most important thing we can do for our children. We mention things like teamwork or learning not to quit or getting a college scholarships (all of which are absurd reasons. All of these things can happen without sports ever having been played. My oldest two children are perfect examples.)
I’m not saying kids shouldn’t play sports or do things after school. I just got through telling you how much my daughter loves basketball. But be prudent. Don’t sign your kid up for every single thing. You won’t win any parenting medals if your child is involved in tons of athletics. Your child won’t necessarily be happier, the more things she does–quite the opposite, actually. Think about how these activities affect your entire family. It’s not just about one child, it’s about everybody. And some seasons it just doesn’t work. Some seasons you’ll have to say no and it’s not the end of the world.
Look for the passions in your child. Ada was out playing basketball, not kicking soccer balls, ever single day. So we went with basketball. Is it you goal to find the thing your child excels in? Then stop, pause and observe. Your goal is not to wear out your child and make him hate his life. You job is to help him discover what he’s good at. You’ll be able to tell without dedicating every second of your afternoon running him around the city. Be still. Look at your child. Look at your family. Really think about what is going to make everyone happiest. Be brave and make the best choice for your child. You are the only one who knows what that is.