Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Swimming and Soccer and Dance class--Oh my!

This post is inspired by one of Ink's posts that addressed the way her weekends are different from the way they were in her single days. And what she said connected to some of the guilt I've been having lately. Of course, I have lots of sources of guilt, but let's address just one of them, shall we?

Confession: My kids are not currently enrolled in any lessons, classes, or activities.

Now. Part of this is because we were gone for a lot of the summer (as we often are), so it's hard to do much more than a short stint of swim lessons. Plus, since the boy broke his leg, soccer was a bust (and we were going to miss classes because of our trip anyway).

We have done lessons in the past. The boy (who is six) did karate for a while last year, but he stopped wanting to go because it was on the afternoon that my husband and his brother would get together so that the cousins could play. When the boy was a toddler, he did gymnastics, but he was more interested in the construction of the apparatus than actually doing the activities, so we stopped.

The girl (who is four) did dance last year, but at the end of the year, she got tired of going. She says she doesn't want to go anymore because she already knows how to dance, and at dance class she just gets bossed around a lot and doesn't really get to actually dance (despite the fact that she had a very good, fun dance teacher). In the car yesterday, I said, "But didn't you like learning routines with the other girls and doing the recitals?" Her response: "Let's just not talk about it right now."

We signed them both up for soccer in the summer, but the girl didn't want to do it because her teacher was a boy, and, as I mentioned above, our boy's leg was broken. Plus, as I also said above, we missed a lot b/c of the trip anyway.

And here are just some of the things their friends are doing: horse riding lessons, soccer, T-ball, swim lessons, dance, gymnastics, piano lessons, 4-H, French lessons, Chinese lessons, karate, summer camps, and so on.

Currently, they are both expressing some interest in gymnastics again, so we might try to get that going. But here's the thing: These kinds of activities are really disruptive to a peaceful family lifestyle. Here is a list of things that my kids like to do that are impacted significantly by lessons: afternoons with grandparents, visits to farmers market, bike riding, gardening, family dinners together, fishing, tea parties, tree climbing, baking, kayaking, time with friends, time with cousins, weekend adventures, reading, trips to the park, trips to the beach, hikes, building things, drawing, and so on. Oh, and plus the boy is starting to have some homework (just a little bit).

It's not that I don't think they should be involved in some organized activities. I do. I worry about them being left behind in music or soccer or languages or golf or whatever. I worry that, suddenly, they will be 10 and 12, and they'll be upset that it's too late to start soccer or play baseball or dance en pointe. Or that they'll feel like they missed out on something. Or that they'll only speak one language. Or that they won't get into college. Or that they'll start doing drugs because they have no structure . . .

But now that the boy is in school everyday until 2:30, I'm realizing that there just isn't that much time in the day, especially if we want to all sit down at the table together to have dinner in the evenings. Plus, they go to my mom's two afternoons a week, and the kids would hate to lose that time. Maybe it would be different if I didn't work, but I'm not sure it would matter.

I don't have any conclusions here. I just have a quandry. So I'm eager to hear your thoughts, my dear blog peeps.


Amstr said...

I fully support the unstructured time! There are, of course, tons of books that warn against over-scheduling kids, not leaving time for play, etc. etc. etc. We had the experience of going from 2 weeks of preschool to a sick week last week, and I loved the time with the kids where we didn't have to be anywhere. I have a feeling I'll be one of those parents who just deems it a "sick day" every once in a while (sick of school, sick of having to be places other than home, sick of the treadmill of success). I have no idea how I'll manage to get the kids to school 5 days a week when that day comes. And I'm reluctant to send them to a full-day kindergarten, because of how many free hours it takes away from their day.

As far as lessons go, kids are pretty quick at learning things. I'm not convinced that 3 years of formal soccer before age 6 makes a kid a better soccer player. It's likely that the kid is using soccer skills just in play. We had Evan in a parent-kid soccer class when he was 3, and we ended up quitting because Trevor couldn't even follow the directions for the "games" (one example: pick a an animal, look at your paper to make sure you know what color the animal is, find and run to the flag that's the color of the animal while kicking a soccer ball AND making the sound the animal makes. For 2.5-3.5 year olds. Seriously.)

Another "late" lesson: I didn't start any formal music lessons until I was 8 (though we sang an awful lot when I was younger than that), and I've had and continue to have a full musical life. I didn't have any chance at a career as a concert pianist, but I probably wouldn't have become a concert pianist anyway.

If you think about childhood as a chance to develop--brain development, social development, physical development, skill development--kids going to develop whatever activities they're doing, and it's likely they're developing in amazing ways by having free time.

For what it's worth, my big 3 parenting strategies are 1) read to/with the kids a lot, 2) hug them a lot, 3) let them play a lot.

(And when I offered to teach Evan piano lessons, he said, "But I already know how to play. I play my own songs." Touche.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sally- it's Mattie's dad. For your peeps, Mattie is a healthy, well adjusted, almost 11 year old girl. I'm her almost 50 dad. Before I share some thoughts, some background; I grew up out in rural Georgia. Family was really important. The small town nearby offered many of the things you mention. Mattie has access to then in our suburban area as well. She has access to one Grandmother in our neighborhood. The other is an hour away.

Both of my parents worked. We could have gotten by, but my parents wanted a better life for me and decided to scrimp and save so that I could go to college. My Dad left for work around 6:30 in the AM. Mom left around 7:30 and dropped me off at school. (She stayed home until I started school) In the afternoon, I rode the bus to my Grandmothers. Mom got off at 4 and came to pick me up. I was free to play on my own from the time the bus dropped me off until Mom picked me up.

I did not participate in little league, karate, scouts, etc as my parents didn't have time. I went to school, perhaps played with some neighbor kids on the weekends, and church on Sunday. I threw/hit/kicked lots of balls off of walls. I lived vicariously through cartoon tv characters and sports figures. The only thing I remember being "pushed" to do was to take piano. I wouldn't do it because they wouldn't let me do sports and it was "sissy" (I blew that one- wished I'd one it!) Can you tell by now that I feel I missed out on some things? My Mom agrees. One thing I did not miss out on was a close relationship with my grandmother. I wouldn't change the fact that I spent after school and summer days with her as I was growing up. I learned a lot about her and country life! I have to admit I resented some of the time as I was a teen (typical teen) because I couldn't do things after school with other kids because I had to stay with her every day because she was not very healthy in her last few years. It was quite the struggle for me to be able to go out for the tennis team in my junior year of high school. Once that happened, I blossomed and did all manner of things during my junior and senior years of high school. My experiences have certainly colored my thoughts on raising Mattie.

to be continued....

Anonymous said...

Mattie has learned to swim. That's a safety issue. I imagine you've taken care of that. If she'd shown interest during classes and wanted to compete, we'd have made the arrangements for her to do it. She tried dance and gymnastics and enjoyed it, but only as far as being non-competitive. That's also cool, as she had to develop a sense of rhythm and some coordination to do it. Trust me, dancing is no fun if you ain't got no rhythm. Make the boy do some- he'll never thank you, but his girlfriends and eventual wife might. Soccer? Mattie doesn't like running, so that's a no-go for her. Doesn't bother her one whit that most of her friends play. Music? Wants no part of music lessons. She'll regret it, as my mom likes to say, but we'll let that be her choice. Tennis was another story. I probably pushed a little, but she needed to do something to get a little exercise and she likes it- except for the running ; ) She also does chorus and scouts and loves both, especially since her Mom is the troop leader. She's done some summer camps- art, music, drama, and tennis. Our schedule? Here's this week (school daily from 8-2:30, mom & dad both working roughly 8-5):

Monday- Mattie tennis 4:45-6:45
Tuesday- Mattie team tennis practice- 5:30-6:30
Wednesday- Chorus practice 2:30- 3:30, Mattie tennis 4:45-6:45
Thursday -Girls Scouts 2:30-4:30, Dad tennis practice 6:30-8:30
Friday- Mattie private tennis lesson 4:30-5
Saturday- Dad tennis match 9-12, Mattie tennis match 1:30-3:30
Sunday- rest, clean house, shop, etc

With all that, her Mom usually works out about an hour each day and I might manage to get in on other tennis match or workout.

Family time is when we are together- in the car, doing homework, reading together, playing Wii, playing tennis together, watching each other's matches (her mom used to play until a congenital wrist problem surfaced). We sit down and eat together almost every day.. and they're busy days! Does Mattie sometimes feel over scheduled? Of course! Does she want to give anything up? Of course not! Since she's hugging me right now, ready to head for the courts, I need to put a bow on this- a nice neat one. But that's just it- it's never neat- but we've let her explore and encouraged her in some areas and let other things go. Hopefully she'll grow up well adjusted, somehow get through adolescence, and want to actually have something to do with us once she's all grown up.

Anonymous said...

So today your boy decided, on his own, to "write" and illustrate three little booklets. He did the art work, dictated the words, and, I hope, proudly took them home to you.

Some days he goes fishing with Papa. We always read at least one book. We often build something he has imagined.

What's better than that?

Ink said...

I completely agree, GEW, with NOT signing them up for lots of things. I so value the more unstructured/play time. Absolutely. Right now, we're doing swimming lessons (for safety reasons) and Monkey really wanted to do skateboarding, but frankly, I get stressed with too many birthday parties to attend! :)

Anonymous said...

My three are older now, 14 & 11 (twins). I did sign up to the after school activity treadmill when they were younger: Ballet, Gymnastics, Tennis, Drama, Swimming, Guides, Brownies - you name it they did it. It was more because I did no activities as a child: different generation & money. I didn't want them to miss out. I wanted them to have the opportunities I was denied. Now it has settled down to swimming for a club twice a week with Choir, drama & Dance in school clubs. Where we live, kids who don't do activites (as teens) tend to hang around the streets. I am adament mine will not be on of those. So I have mixed feelings. It sounds like yours have an active life without needing clubs/activities. It can get very cometitive though - which mother has the most busy after school time!

TKW said...

I am so with you on this one. I have a strict rule: one activity per kid...MAX. And swimming takes precedence now, because it's a life skill.

Miss D. wants to learn to play guitar, take voice lessons, play soccer and ride horses. I am evil and feel no shame at denying her these opportunities at this time.

My sanity is at stake here!

The Thirty-Something Bride said...

I was always pissed that we moved around and I couldn't take lessons in anything for any period of time and actually get good. Where ever we moved my level of experience was either too low or too high. By the time I got to high school, I had no expertise in anything that was a group or team activity. That sucked. I really wanted to join in something, so I joined in with the punk rock crowd - cuz I could. It was that or cheer leading. I went to the first day of cheer try-out practice and they told me straight up that I was too tall and would be out of place in any line-up. Whoever that was, I need to go beat the living crap out of them now for sucking. I was also in band for about 5 minutes. I was good too, but they put me as last chair because we moved late and try-outs had already happened. I was FIRST chair in my last band. I begged for a try-out, but was denied and I refused to sit last chair until the next try-out....5 months later. I quit from stubborn pride.
So I took my tall-ass flute-playing-self off and rebelled. You know the things I did....

I say get the kids into a class. Let them choose and make them go. They might hate you once in a while, but MAKE THEM GO. I know this is contrary to A Good(Enough) Woman's parenting style, but sometimes good things are tough things. They will thank you later.

My 2 cents.

Ink said...

Just wanted to add that, like TKW, we usually limit to one thing per "season." Mostly because even that takes effort but also because of cost! I can't believe how expensive kids' activities are. (Beyond the intitial sign-up fee...arrgh.0

Good Enough Woman said...

I'm so glad for all of the comments! It's interesting how much people's own childhood experiences impact their ideas on this topic. Same goes for me, I think. And I'm sure it all gets trickier the more children there are, too! I was an only child, so that sets up one kind of circumstance. My friend is getting ready to have her fourth child, so that's an entirely different ball game, no?

I like the idea of thinking about the "seasons" for activities. Maybe for my kids, since they are young, I can create some "seasons"--even if some of them might be arbitrary. First, we can have gymnastics season for three months. Then dance or karate season. Then 4-H season. Then music season. Then soccer season. Then swim season. Or something like that. That way, while they're young, they get to try various things--one or two at a time--so when they are older (say, 7 or 8), we know what to commit to.

Also, then we'd have intentional and organized dabbling rather than haphazard joining and quitting.

It's a good theory anyway . . .

Ink said...

It's a very good plan, GEW! Then they'll get to try different things and yet it will be manageable.

Monkey yesterday told me that next he wants to try Tae Kwon Do or Karate. (Why does he never pick, like, art class? Why is it always potential bodily harm activity?)