I have an absolutely not-at-all-facetious question that is starting to gnaw away at me, so I’m going to ask it even though it may result in the revocation of my mothering credentials.
While I very much believe that children display their own personhood, if you will, quite early on—toddlerhood is all about making it clear that I HAVE OPINIONS, DAMMIT! after all—I don’t believe that most of them have a very good sense of what sorts of activities they will enjoy, long-term. Sure, you have the occasional kid who picks up a violin at age three and is a virtuoso by eight, but for most, “activities” are a mostly an exercise in parental endurance… right?
And that’s the question: Does your child guide their activity participation, or do you? And if you have older kids, how has that changed over the years?
I have a very good reason for asking, you know.
And that reason is, I am seriously considering disallowing all extracurriculars on the grounds that THEY ARE MAKING ME INSANE. And I really need to know if other people have children who actually KNOW what they want and the parents merely make that happen, or if the parents choose (or even just steer a bit) and the kids fall in line.
It’s not even an overscheduling issue; I am very firm in my belief that ONE athletic endeavor and ONE other activity is plenty. My kids each take piano and swim, right now. That’s fine. Sort of.
The problem is twofold; first, that there are OTHER activities they’re now wanting to do, ones that wouldn’t directly replace the ones they’re already doing, and aren’t even necessarily weekly, but which constitute More Stuff. Such as:
1) All of Monkey’s friends are in Boy Scouts. I have no problem with the Scouts. I’m sure they’re a very fine organization. (I mean, aside from the whole being scared of gay people thing. Actually, maybe I DO have a problem with Scouts.) Whatever. The POINT is that I’m unwilling to add another activity to the roster.
2) Chickadee has some friends who are taking something I have been referring to as debutante classes but aren’t, really… they’re manners training, mostly. And while I originally scoffed and said “I don’t think so,” I’ve also noticed that said friends are—get this—MUCH MORE POLITE than my own darling, soup-slurping children. Hmmmm.
So that’s the first issue.
The second issue is that even at nearly-nine and ten-and-a-half, I am not super-confident in my children’s ability to figure out what they actually WANT.
Monkey played soccer for a few years. He enjoyed it. I think soccer is a fine sport. This year, soccer became a much more competitive and time-consuming venture, and what passed for skill (ability to run in the proper direction, say) when the kids were in kindergarten really doesn’t cut the mustard in the current league, and so given Monkey’s, ah, lack of actual soccer talent, we sat him down and suggested he consider another sport.
Had he said “I LOVE SOCCER AND ONLY SOCCER AND TIL DEATH DO US PART!” (take THAT, Boy Scouts), I would’ve suffered through the additional time commitment to make that happen for him. But his reaction was more of a “I really like soccer, but I like other stuff, too. Hey, look over there! Something shiny!” type of thing. And that was the end of soccer.
In contrast, Chickadee did Tae Kwon Do for many years and seemed extremely committed to it—right up until she declared she never wanted to go to class again. She had progressed to a level where you actually have to be fairly aggressive, and she is not, and it stopped being enjoyable for her. We did insist she finish out the session she was enrolled in—responsibility and money paid and all of that—but then we let her stop. She’d been begging to do swim team, so we started that.
Now both kids swim and enjoy it. But when it came time to renew for the next session, both of them were noncommittal. In the end, I feel like we re-enrolled as the path of least resistance. Monkey says it’s all fine with him, but EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. Chickadee has come up with another sport she DESPERATELY wants to do that I just WON’T LET HER because I am MEAN.
One week it was that she has “always wanted to do gymnastics.” Which, okay. Couple of problems, there. One, she’s already done gymnastics. For two years! And we stopped because… she got tired of it. And two, gymnastics isn’t really a “casual” sport, and yeah, I’m not so much on board with the idea that a kid her age would have to spend 20+ hours/week at the gym. Sorry.
Another week—right after she’d INSISTED she wanted to keep swimming—it was that she “always wanted to do ballet.” Which… hey, haven’t we had this discussion before? SHE ALREADY TOOK BALLET. And QUIT. Is selective memory a symptom of chlorine poisoning? Because I’m beginning to wonder.
In contrast, Monkey is fairly content, but has taken to pirouetting and leaping about the house, and so I asked him if HE wants to do ballet, and that lead to chaos. Because NO, MAMA, BOYS DON’T DO BALLET (I think he really thinks I’m joking when I insist that they do!), and then my eardrums exploded from the wailing because HOW COME YOU ASK HIM IF HE WANTS TO DO BALLET BUT YOU WON’T LET ME?
And then I lay down on the kitchen floor with a loaf of bread over my head and told the children to wake me up when they’re leaving for college.