I am not signing my kids up for activities. With the new school year, I hear parents talking about dance lessons, soccer games, football practice, gymnastics, music lessons and various other activities. My oldest did gymnastics for about a month over the summer, it was a bear getting out the door every Saturday morning, so when it was time to re-up I told the gym they could give her spot to another kid. We quit.
There is a lot of chatter about over-scheduling kids to the point of emotional distress. This blog is not a call to simplify childhood because I love the idea of activities in theory. As an adult, I tend to over-schedule myself with different activities and classes because I like doing lots of different things and constantly learning. However, as the parent of a small child responsible for seeking out different classes, signing my kid up, paying the different fees, purchasing the stuff and then getting my kid to the activity on time, I am unmotivated and just lazy.
Parents will argue it’s good for children to get exposed to different activities.
Once my daughters enter the school system in kindergarten, I feel like we step on the conveyor belt (like the moving sidewalks in an airport) to higher education and we’ll never be able to step off until they graduate from college. I’ve also heard it’s good for my kids to take direction from another adult. I personally feel this is rubbish. My kids know how to take direction from me and others in a position of authority.
The purpose of this blog is to relinquish stress and guilt as the suburban mom who is not looking to sign my kid up for stuff this fall. I think it’s OK for my kids to have a childhood full of playing at home, where going to the local library and playground are big outings, and their days are filled with imaginary play of their own making.
Right now, my kids spend the majority of the “work week” at home with our nanny (this sounds very fancy, but it’s actually more reasonable than day care for three little ones). Even though my oldest could be in preschool, she’s at home because she wants to be home with her little sisters. This works out well for me because the logistics of getting her to and from preschool are just not worth the effort and organizing right now. I think she would be fine going to preschool. So, I may be crazy for thinking this way, but I want her to stay a care-free little kid for as long as possible, and I’m doing this by not succumbing to the pressure of signing my kids up for a ton of stuff. My girls do not need to worry about practicing dance, music or sports and neither do I because my oldest is only four years old.
My personal experience comes from a different end of the spectrum.
As a youngster myself, I was signed up for a multitude of clubs and after-school programs with the mindset of exposure and beefing up my college application. My roster included gymnastics, ballet, jazz, soccer, piano, flute, chorus, musicals, summer stock musicals, theater, World Affairs Club, debate team, some sort of art club… I signed up for anything that looked good and I had a mild interest in. Sometimes I felt pressure to do more, but I really was not incredibly stressed over it. I imagine my kids will be fine too. However, it’s me who is putting on the brakes because I’m not interested in shuttling my kids to and from class and practice right now. There will be plenty of opportunities to be a taxi in the future.
I know there are lots of parents who may disagree, and I welcome the comments on how structure and extra-curricular activities work really well for your kid and your family. Truthfully, it was super adorable to see my daughter attempt different moves on the gym floor, but I was not happy with the negotiations to get her to gymnastics class on time, then cajoling to convince her it’ll be fun (which she always admitted to in the end), and finally wrangling her little sisters. For now, I’m just going to let my kids be kids.