Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun

MamaKat has a writing workshop every week, where she posts topics to inspire bloggers to write, then they bang out a post and come back 2 days later to link up.

If you're reading this, there's a good possibility I am preaching to the choir. Still, I thought, it bears repeating for anyone who possibly reads this blog but is not a blogger themselves.

Anyway, one of the writing prompts this past week (for us to link up on Thursday, which of course I am 2 days late and a few dollars short) was:
It has been said that kids these days are pushed into too many extra-curricular activities and are not given the freedom to play and be bored and to use their imaginations. Is this true?

I mean, I'd say it's true. It's hard for me to compare, though, because I wasn't really involved in too many extra curriculars when I was a kid. I had Girl Scouts, then in 6th & 7th grades I had softball but that was a summer league. My whole childhood was going to school, then jumping off the bus as fast as I could so I could hop onto my banana-seat bike and explore my neighborhood. Back in those days, we just rode and rode until our lungs gave out or the streetlights came on, whichever was first. I remember one summer, it was my goal to climb the mountain by our house, aka ride to the top of the pretty steep hill on my bike without having to get off and push it the rest of the way up. Every morning that summer, I'd ride my bike to swim team practice. By the end of the summer, I finally did it, and OH the sense of accomplishment! It tasted so sweet.

But anyway, I digress. Texan Papa and I have 3 kids in grade school (5th, 4th, and 2nd grades) who've never been on a sports team. Not even once. Linus is incredibly athletic and we've never even signed him up. Maybe it's out of our own laziness, knowing that once we sign him up we'll have to be driving him to practices and games, all while toting 4 other kids along (including a toddler and a baby. So, LOTS of fun there.) Maybe it's because of the cost involved. I mean, after paying the fees and buying the equipment, some sports would leave us pretty short for the month.

But if I had to guess the one factor that's weighed most heavily with us, it's that we just want our lives to be simpler. We want our children to have enough time for schoolwork every evening without staying up past 8pm. We want to have sit-down meals as a family every night. We want to be able to go to our children's school when they have a performance for music class or the art show or Open House. We don't want to miss those things because of an out-of-town game.

I was just saying to my husband the other day, that I really regret us not putting the kids in any music classes either. I took piano lessons from 8-12, and while I certainly didn't turn out to be Beethoven, I did learn a lot about reading music and plunking out a few Christmas Carols on the keyboard. I have heard so many wonderful things about children who know how to read and play music, that they have better logic & reasoning skills, and that they perform better in school. Music lessons are something we've decided we're going to do next year, no matter what the cost or time commitment.

But, now that they'll have scouts and music lessons, that doesn't leave much time for anything else. I have always said, I just want my kids to have time to be kids. To be honest, my kids have WAY too much time on their hands on the weekends. They spend a good portion of the day staring at the TV. But during the week, it's go time. Homework, then chores, then dinner, then bath, then bed. If we could find some type of sports team that did everything on the weekend, that would be great! But who does that?

Don't even get me started on how silly I think it is, that kids can start playing soccer at age 3 or 4. What's up with that? I understand that it's more about learning the drills and having fun, but still.... the cost. The time commitment. And then, when an 8-year-old wants to start soccer, he's already behind the pack because his peers have all been playing for 4 years.

So anyway, do I think kids need more time just hanging out and less time doing structured busy activites? Yes, definitely. But I also see that I'm in the minority among other parents in my peer group. The number of kids enrolling in little league and violin lessons at earlier and earlier ages has been increasing for a long time; it's no surprise that kids are suffering burnout from the number of extra curriculars they participate in. I'm like a fish swimming upstream because our kids don't know what it means to be on a basketball team or take dance lessons. We don't mind being a little different in this respect, though, because in our family we've all got each other and we do put a lot of focus on spending time together with one another. We feel like it strengthens us as a family unit, learning how to get along by simply being together a lot.

So far it's worked out pretty well.

Texan Mama


anymommy said...

I agree 100% on your comment about starting kids so young! My older boys are starting to show a lot of interest in hockey and oh my the skating ring there are 3 year olds - lot of them - that can already skate well. It kind of sucks.

The Planet Pink said...

I think it's a tough balance to strike. Particularly the more kids you have. Right now our oldest two take dance and our oldest also takes piano. For us, piano is non-negotiable for alot of the reasons you listed. So right now, 2 nights out of the 5 week nights have activities. I'm happy with that. But what happens when #3 gets old enough to start dance (or gymnastics, or soccer) and then #4? And once they're all in piano? Oy. I can see my nights slipping away fast than the shore line in high tide.

Jennifer said...

Noah decided he wanted to play soccer last year- in first grade. I went to sign him up and had that exact problem. The guy asked me how long he'd been playing and I said it was his first year. He informed me that a lot of kids had been playing since they were 3 and he would be really behind and suggested I enroll him in some soccer camp that was $200. I couldn't do it. And, there were definitely kids that had skills on his team, but there were also kids that were just learning like him. He was fine. This year, he wanted to play again, and his sister wanted to be just like him. I signed her up- she's 3 - and she loved it. But, they kept it low-key for them- early practices and small time commitment. Our cost for soccer is also very affordable- $40 for the season. However, I was very relieved when Noah told me he did NOT want to play baseball after my neighbor told me baseball is $130! Wowzers!

Gigi said...

I remember when mine was small there were some friends who would sign their 3 year old up for sports - I thought it was crazy. We waited until Man-Child asked us to participate - he was probably in second or third grade at the time. We also had a one activity at a time rule and never signed him up for any team that required extensive travel. Kids need that down time and if you keep them so busy with extra curricular activities when will they have time to explore and learn? Not to mention the stress that some activities can cause - for both parent and child.

Wendy said...

ONE EACH. That's the rule. Try anything you want really, but one thing at a time.

Hubby wants them to do team sports at various times, just to make sure they learn how to cooperate with a group (neither of his siblings ever learned that, to their own detriment) - but not football. So far Dolly has done softball once, and we moved before Cowboy could do baseball even though he showed natural ability. :-(

Honestly, though, the sports thing is like a cult once you sign up. Takes over your whole life and all your free time. Mebbe we'll just wait for school sports.

That Janie Girl said...

My sons are grown, but yeah, I don't know how all these parents do it...moneywise, and timewise.

The kids have to be s.t.r.e.s.s.e.d.

Michelle Saunderson said...

My kids have been in sports since they were little (4) and they are still in sports at 12 & 14. My son is in high school now, so that takes all the pressure off me other than buying cleats, etc..., so I only have to go to my daughter's soccer practices. I don't think that they are stressed at all. And we do spend family time together, it just revolves around sports much of the time.

Karen said...

I agree, kids need time to be kids.

Anna See said...

My kids have actually felt "too late" for several sports even though they are so young. Ugh. I need to remember that even at age 41, it's not TOO LATE for me to try new things. Unless you are talking about skiing, b/c I'm not going there.

I am sick that we brought so many electronic devices into our home b/c the boy and his friends only want to do those and rarely play imaginatively and do NOT go exploring on their bikes.

Jennifer said...

Baby Girl is in scouts and dance. I might let her do softball over the summer when dance is out. It will be the same with Bud. I just really don't see the point of scheduling so much stuff that you're never home. Parents burn out, kids burn out. No thank you.

smock4fun said...

All of my girls do Girl Scouts, dance and one sport. sounds crazy. But..scouts is only 1x a month, dance 1x a week and sports 1x a week. Believe it or not...they are all home by 6:15 everynight. And...we eat dinner...everynight together. Sports is ymca. Once the games start, they have no more practices!!! I want to know the parents of my girls friends. yes, I want to control who they hang with!! girls have wonderful friends. And, my hubby and i have become friends with our kids friends!! It's great!!!

HealBalanceLive said...

My oldest daughter got married a few years ago and I have to say you will not regret having time together...I have 3 younger kids still at home and I cherish the family meals more than ever. Listen to your gut and do what is right for you and your family :)