Let Kids be Kids

When I was a kid, I was very active. There was Girl Scouts and I played softball for a while then soccer. When I moved on to middle school, I tried intramural gymnastics and synchronized swimming, chrous, band and drama. In high school I was in marching band, the stage crew and I had a part time job. Life was busy that’s for sure.

Today the atmosphere of kids activities feels different. There is a pressure that in my opinion makes both kids and parents crazy. Today, it feels as though kids are being forced to pick a focus at a younger and younger age. The intramural programs where the intent is to offer exposure and build skills is targeted at the four to six year old set. Today competitive programs that are aimed to prepare kids for long term success start at about seven or eight depending on the activity.

Until recently, Fish was taking a recreational gymnastics class. Once she decided that gymnastics was no longer for her she was on the hunt for a new activity. Fish was born with gills. She loves to swim and loves the water (thus, her nickname). She wanted to look at swim team. The only local program is offered by the YMCA. I asked for the program details while there for Mim’s swimming lessons.

Whoa! I was handed a twenty page packet outlining the responsibilities and requirements. Keep in mind that this program accepts children as young as 6.

Requirements:

Full Y annual membership (in our case$126 based on her age).

Program registration fee $175 for 10 weeks.

Practice three times a week for 1 hour.

Our school day ends half an hour later than the district the Y primarily serves, so to make practice on time, I’d have to pick Fish up at school and rush into town. Not to mention, the need to entertain her brother for the hour and half it would take her to practice and dress (his level of swim class isn’t offered at the same time). We wouldn’t be home until at least 6 pm with homework, dinner, and showers to cram into the next 2 – 3 hours. I hate most mushy food, so crock pot meals are out and A-man doesn’t get home until 6-6:15, most nights, so he wouldn’t be able to get things started.

That’s just during the week, during the spring “off season”. I read ahead to the schedule for the fall and winter when anywhere from one to three weekends are taken up (at least partially) by meets. Meets are all over the region and parents are expected to provide transportation AND onsite support for the meets.

I felt overwhelmed just reading the paperwork. Fish is ten with a wonderful imagination and a need for down time each day. We are family of four. My husband works at a distance and over the next few months will be working on the completion of a big project. That means, an unpredictable schedule and an increased chance of late nights. Thus all the home management falls to me. I’m ok with that, BUT I also recognize that I’m human and I can’t do it all.

I love my daughter, but the truth is I don’t think she’s the next Olympic Gold Medal swimmer and even if she is, that level of competitive success takes dedication her parents don’t possess. Does that make me a bad mother? I don’t think so but still, the thougths nag at me. Mostly along the lines of “everyone else is doing it”. One mom says “Soccer season has started, so weeknights from 2 to 8, I’m either at the field or driving there, yet another family talks about four nights a week of baseball practices and two games on Saturdays.

I listen to these other parents who drive their kids hither and yon and I think “Good for them, but I don’t want that for our family”. As much as I believe in supporting my children’s dreams, I think it is important for them to understand that they are part of a family. They matter, they are important, but the world does not revolve around them. I have a say how my time is spent as well. If I worked full time outside of our home, things would be a whole lot more hectic, but A-man and I have made different choices for ourselves and our family. Our choices may not be yours and I can’t say that they come guilt free because they don’t but they are well thought out and we stand by them.

So, I said no. No to the craziness and yes to a childhood for her and her brother. I know as she ages the commitments will get bigger, and I’ll cross those bridges as we come to them, but this was too much, too soon for her and for our family.

I don’t mean to criticize any one else’s choices and frankly as the kids get older, our choices will likely change. Who knows, maybe I will need to befriend the crock pot. But right now? I just want a little more calm than chaos for my family.

Fish took it well and we are still searching for and enrichment activity that interests her without overtaking all of our lives.

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