There are many things in the parenting world that is viewed as acceptable and the “right” thing to do for your kids by one group of parents and then viewed as an unintended way of hurting your kids and the “wrong” thing to do for your kids by another group of parents. I’m going to address the issue of kids and their activity schedules today because one it’s something I feel strongly about and it’s one of those things where some real people I know in my life agree with me and others make me feel like I need to defend myself. And I read an article just yesterday that put kids and involving them in too many activities as something we can do to “unintentionally hurt our kids in the long run”.
My oldest if she had her choice would be not only doing horseback riding lessons and soccer (two days a week) right now but also probably dance or gymnastics, karate, and music. She wants to try and do everything. Between money, time, and both of our mental sanity I can’t let her do it all at one time in one week but I will try to let her experience it all over the course of a year. Why not is my question? Sure, her dad and I have things we’d like her to try because we liked them as a kid but how is she really going to know what she likes until she tries it, whether it’s hers or our suggestion to try it.
I hear so many arguments for not letting our kids have too many activities or for not letting our kids’ activity schedules dominate our evenings and weekends. Both my husband and I grew up in homes where our activities, games in both our cases, did dominate our family lives, and it’s one of the most memorable thing about our childhoods. So rather than dwell on the other side’s arguments I’m going to give you mine for why I support kids' active activity schedule.
Finding their passion: I don’t want their memorable childhood passion in life to be Netflix binge watching. I want them to find something they love; something they throw their heart and soul into because I think finding and experiencing that type of passion will teach them what it's like to really dedicate themselves, time and energy, into something they care about.
Work Ethic: When they find something they love they will learn to work at it and not just at practice or recital but on their own time as well. They’ll see that to succeed at something you have to work at it.
To succeed and fail: I'm not putting my kid in every sport and music lesson because I think she's an athletic or musical genius. I want her to experience exceling and failing, and a desire to work hard to excel or to overcome a failure if it's something she really wants to do. We're not going to be great at everything we attempt to do, and we're going to fail at some things. But that's okay, and that's a reality they need to know.
Learning about balance: It’s school and homework now but later it will be parenthood and jobs. Balance is such a necessary skill in today’s society; it is way too easy to get consumed with everything anymore. They need practice with this before they’re out in the real world. They need to know how to balance a social and family life with school and homework and activities.
Decision making on time management and cutting back: Just as they need to learn how to balance their activities with school and their social and home life, they need to learn when to cut back, when to recognize that they've piled on too much. Then from there they'll learn to prioritize so that they can still make time for the things that are most important to them.
I’ve heard the argument that our lives shouldn’t be consumed by our children’s lives and activities. That centering our world around theirs leads to entitlement. I don’t buy that making their activities a big part of our family life is going to lead to entitlement; frankly I think that argument is just an excuse for people that don’t want to put in the time and effort it takes to support their kids and their activities. Believe me five seasons of coaching has shown me that some parents don’t want to sacrifice time from their own schedules or career ambitions to support their kids’ activities.
I know I’m not going to make everything, but I do plan on the things I miss being few and far between rather than the things I do make being few and far between. This is my kids’ time and whereas, some parents love the early years, these upcoming years have always been the years I’ve looked forward to the most about parenting. It’s going to be busy, crazy, and honestly to a certain extend how busy, crazy it gets to be will be their call, especially as they get older and can start to make the decision on what and how much of their time they want to dedicate to something.
I’ve had my time; I had it in high school, I had it in college, I had it in the five years between college and parenthood, I had in it in the beginning of my career, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m ready for it to be about them. I’ll have my time again someday; just as I know I thoroughly enjoyed and made the most of my time when it was mine between my adolescence and until recently, I want to look back at that point sometime in the future and know I made the most of this time that is theirs now.