That’s my girl in the pink shorts
I didn’t play any sports growing up. I did dance, maybe for half a year, piano for another couple of years, but didn’t really stay with anything. My mother worked nights as a nurse in the hospital, so during the day, she usually just wanted to spend time with us and being a Filipino mother, she didn’t really know about too many activities available to us. My middle sister starting doing tennis in middle school and high school, but that was the extent of our extracurricular activities as a family.
While I enjoyed staying home and being with my family as a child, I can honestly say that I look back and miss that opportunity of having a close group of friends, having something to do, and goals to make for myself. I never got in trouble or did anything crazy in school (ssh), but there are definitely experiences I feel like I missed out on.
When I had children, I didn’t tell myself, “Hey, put these kids in a million actives! Yeah, that would be awesome!” I also never thought I’d have 4 kids at 26, but that’s another blog post in itself. Our schedule right now is Mondays and Wednesday, my stepson has soccer practice, Tuesdays and Thursdays Truly has practice,Wednesdays Addy has soccer practice, and Friday evenings both of the girls have dance.
To think that I balance all of that while dragging the baby along too, is an astounding feat.
I battle with myself on a weekly basis if the kids have too much on their plate. Soccer, Dance, and everything else they love? Is it too much for them? Am I pushing them too much? Are they missing out on being kids?
I find the answer though at each practice when everyone screams my children’s names, hugs them, and they run off and play together. I find my answer in the pride in my daughters faces as they walk off stage at the recital in their amazing ballet outfits. I find my answer in the trophy’s they are so proud of (even the “you didn’t win but were so awesome” trophy’s) that they can bring to show and tell. I find my answer in telling them how proud I am in everything they do.
Truly told me last year that she didn’t want to dance anymore. We were going on her 4th year of dance and she said she was done, in a very dramatic, 6 year old tone. “Class is too long,” she said “I just want to go home and play.” The thing about her is that she is an amazing dancer. She has the natural ability and the smile on her face when she is performing is obvious. But she didn’t want to be at practice. I remember when I told my mom when I was young that I didn’t want to dance anymore. I felt like I wasn’t good enough (after only a couple of months in the class) and I would rather be home. As a child, I wanted to make that decision. And my mom let me. She took me out, not wanting to waste her money if I was miserable, and I never looked back. That was, until I was in high school and quickly began to admire the girls on the Dance Team. I wanted to be like them, they were awesome! I can’t tell you how many times I told my mother I wish she would have kept me in Dance. “But you didn’t want to be there, why would I force you?” She would tell me. “Because I was a child, I didn’t know any better!” I still joke with her about it to this day.
I think my life experience may influence how I make decisions with the kids in their activities.
I didn’t let Truly quit. I asked her if she wanted to go into class and tell her teachers she was done and tell her dance classmates she didn’t want to be there anymore. I told her we could return all of her dance shoes and outfits and never have to come back again. I tried to explain to a 6 year old, the best way I could, the effects she would have not only on her but on others if she quit. It was her choice, but did she want to give up her dream? Plus, I know my daughter. She didn’t want to NOT dance, she just wanted to play with her brand new toy. Realizing what she would be missing, she ran her behind to class. Plus I told her, we could always take a break whenever she felt like she really just missed her toys.
There are a couple of rules I follow when I am trying to evaluate if what we are doing is too much. There are 3 key points you’ll want to remember when it comes to extracurricular activities.
1. Know Your Child’s Strengths
Your kid isn’t going to be good at everything. The reason why we are in Soccer and Dance is because it is my children’s strengths. We tried tennis because my sister and I love tennis, but to be honest, we ended laughing at their attempts (my sister and I are horrible) more than learning and decided we would teach them tennis ourselves as family time.
In 5th grade, children are given the option of playing a violin in elementary. I would love for my stepson to learn, but he has no interest. “You need music, it’s awesome, it’s so cool,” I tried to plea with him. The look on his face, the “please don’t make me” look of a terrified 10 year old, told me that violin isn’t going to be his thing. That was ok with me.
Being a child is about discovering what it is you are good at and what it is they love. Keeping your child in an activity that they are obviously miserable in and have lost interest in does everyone a disservice. While it’s good to teach our kids to stay with the commitment they made, you can make the decision later to try something else.
2. Let Them Take A Time Out
We have a rule in our house. If someone really doesn’t want to go to practice or class, then we don’t go. If they look like they are burnt out, if I’m scrambling with dinner, or if the baby is crying and cranky, we call it a day. While practice is important, my kids know that there well being is more important to me. We don’t have to make every practice, and if they want a break, I let them. Sometimes it’s good for them to take a week off to come back the next week with even more energy and desire. We take many days just lounging around the house and enjoy those moments very much.
3. Be Active In Their Activities
With all of these activities, you can easily get lost in your child’s life and start feeling like a chauffeur, missing out on important connection time. The easy fix for this is to get involved with your child’s activities. Whether it’s coaching for the team, being a parent volunteer, helping out in the dance office, or being backstage mom, are all great ways to be present in your child’s life. It will also give you the chance for your child to see that they are important to you. With the kids soccer team, I am the Social Media Manager for the league, at Dance class we take picnics and hang out outside the studio while we wait for each girls turn to practice.
For our family, our activities gives us a chance to be active in each others lives. With some careful planning, and lots of crock pot meals, this family is totally on the go, but together as a family. The second that we feel like it’s too much to handle, I’m sure we will re-adjust. As long as the pride in their eyes are still beaming after every game, and the smile is still there after every practice, we will keep on going.