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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The 3 Things do Nothing

I'm very fortunate to have a number of good friends who have children the same age as mine. Some live near me, others live far away - even in other countries. I chat online and in real life with other mommies and it keeps me sane, and helps me keep some sort of perspective on this whole parenting gig.

Recent observation of my peers has left me feeling like I am perhaps a bit of a "slacker" mom lately. I'm aware that many/most/all parents have their children enrolled in some type of organized classes or sports activities.

You know. Like swimming, soccer, baseball, hockey, skating, art lessons, gymnastics, music classes, etc. If you're a parent you're thoroughly aware that there is a plethora of classes now being marketed to babies. Sign language, music, swimming, "baby art", and so on. You can basically sign a 3-month-old up for anything these days. Ready to learn Japanese? I'm confident you can find a class for the diaper-clad, toothless crowd.

After hearing moms speak of children going to the rinks for hockey practice before the sun has even risen, kids being recruited by swim clubs to train for swim meets, and the hectic pace of their lives driving their kids to activities seven days a week, it dawned on me that I have not signed the Things up for any classes in quite a long time.

Let's see . . . I did enroll them in gymnastics for a couple months last winter out of baby guilt for all the time I had to spend with Thing 3 after she was born last January. They didn't love it at all and Thing 2 never did what the rest of his class was doing. Ever. The teacher said he was "lacking attention skills" (at age TWO??) but I preferred to label him as "free spirited". Thing 1 did a swimming class at six months. We had fun, but no Michael Phelps is he. Thing 1 also did skating lessons a couple years ago . . . because I secretly had dreams of him following in his mama's blades and becoming a figure skater. And his daddy secretly has dreams of him being recruited by the NHL. Potato, Potato?

So the three Things are currently doing nothing. Nada. We drive them nowhere for lessons on any weekday, nor on the weekend. I felt a lot of guilt about this for a few months. I felt as if I ought to be fostering their skills and preparing them for the world by enrolling them in some sort of organized activity. Other people do it, so I should too. I didn't like the guilt, so I decided to confront it.

Where did that get me? Well, I've decided that it's okay for my Things to be doing nothing for right now. To just let them be, and play, and hang out with their parents and friends and go to the park and go to the pool for public swims and skate on the community-built skating rink this winter and run and jump in gigantic piles of leaves in our backyard. With so little stress and no time constraints of needing to be anywhere on time and no worries like "will they like it?" or "will they be good at it?" or "this better not be a waste of money" because deep down inside I know this cannot last forever and I truly - truly - should enjoy this while I can.

And so I am.


Unknown said...

Good for you. I've been contemplating putting my oldest into soccer or t-ball but I think I haven't because I am the lazy one.

I like your reasoning MUCH better (and in NO WAY am I presuming YOU are lazy.) I think they need to enjoy their childhood more. And I hope to take things a little slower for now, while they are still young.

Good post.

Anonymous said...

Good for you!

I go back and forth on this one- sometimes we have a lot going on, sometimes just school (which can be a lot actually). I tend to go with what my kids seem interested in, as well as what my mommy friends are doing (as in, I get to catch up with a friend each week as the kids do whatever the activity is).

If it is just going to add stress it is not worth it for anyone. I certainly think the kids are fine either way and definitely not missing out on anything life changing at this age.

Megan said...

i completely agree! a lot of parents are on the prowl for things for their "things" to be involved in, and we take an, "if an obviously good thing presents itself, my child is VERY interested in doing it, and we can AFFORD it in time AND money" then we do it!


Tammi Hayne said...

I concure. Good for you! We weren't involved in all these activities at such a young age when we were growing up and we turned out fine! In fact I didn't even go to preschool! The kids have no idea what other kids are doing and feel no sense of peer pressure to be involved in things so why should we place this pressure on ourselves? I think society is placing far too many unrealistic expectations on children these days to have done it all and seen it all before they even hit grade primary. What happened to letting them be kids? They grow up far too quickly as it is without expediting the process.

Donna M said...

Good for you Shan. There is enough going on in their lives right now just coping with school. The time will come for all the other things and then you will look back on these days with no regrets!

amanda said...

high five sister!

seriously as a classroom teacher i have seen way to many kids who are already burnt out with extracurricular activities. they just need to be kids!

and they will thank you later :)

JoeGirl said...

Good for you! Enjoy them all to yourself while you can. They will—soon enough—be asking to do more.

Quinn likes to be busy, so he does Jiu-Jitsu 3-4 times a week, Beavers weekly, and on Saturdays EITHER skis in the winter or plays soccer in the summer.

Jake goes to daycare 5 days a week. That's enough for any 2-year old ;)

But we do SO enjoy our nights off.

Awesome post!

dougnlarry said...

I'm right there with you. Neither of my kids are signed up for anything right now either. I feel bad about it sometimes, but I think it's good that they have time to be kids. There's time for classes later...

Heather @ Cancer Mommy said...

Um, yeah, mine don't do anything either.

Oh well, it gives mommy more time to play with them and enjoy them.

They are growing up so fast. Any time I have to spend away from them is just to long!

Andrea@Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

There's a lot of wisdom in letting your children just be children. No rush, no fuss, no pressure.

We've done things here and there with Eve and zip with Judah. I learned with Eve that it wasn't worth it. Too much hassle for a young child AND her parents.
I would love for Eve to be involved with girl scouts. G.S. is a great organization, but Daniel and I made a commitment to not involve her in anything but Kindergarten for at least the first semester. I see now that it was an excellent decision on our part. And, it makes it so much easier to say no to things and people because of that commitment.

Enjoy those leaf piles!!


Unknown said...

I am so glad that you are making the choice you are. It's great that you are having time to spend with them rather than stressed about who needs to where when!

And how I think of it? They'll have plenty of time later to join the organized sports or art or whatever it is.

Good for you for doing what makes you all the happiest, sweetie!

Kristen said...

Totally hear you friend!!

We have too made the conscience decision not to schedule our toddlers. They are all ready going to be in school for-ev-er. And life is too short not to spend waking ours playing!!

Amen sister, and there is a friend in Arizona who chose to do the same. exact. thing!!

Anonymous said...

For heaven's sake..."lacking attention skills" at age 2 just sounds insane. There are plenty of activities and plenty of times ahead (IMHO) for the Things to take part in. We sometimes wonder if the 'opportunities to excel' are for the child... or the parent(s).

Good on you!


Jenn said...

The only extracurricular activities I have my 2 year old enrolled in is the "get your butt outside and play on our 2 1/2 acres!" class. And that's it for now.

I totally agree with you!

Sus said...

Here, here! My kids do nothing, too. I'm laughing out loud at your description of Thing 2 in the gymnastics class: he and my daughter could have hung out at her "tumbleweeds" class last spring, both making wide arcs around the teacher to the next station, avoiding anything that required upside-down-ness, or near upside-down-ness. :) She is enrolled in a 5-mornings-a-week preschool program now, but just today we decided she needed a free morning just to BE. Thank God for my husband who is constantly reminding me that his best childhood memory is lying in his yard for hours upon hours studying the leaves above him.

Thanks for dropping by my place a while back. I've been offline for a month or so but am back... and will stop by again!

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