I know it may come as a surprise, but I’m not trying to get my kids to commit to anything besides swimming lessons this year. Some people may consider this borderline cruel, depriving them of all sorts of new experiences, but in all honesty I consider it to be the ultimate gift.
I’ve noticed in the past that by the end of the school year – well, by the end of March is more accurate – my kids are over their extracurricular activities and don’t ever want to do what they were signed up for again. Just my kids? I doubt it. My daughter participated in gymnastics for two years in a row, and while she adored it in the beginning, she was pretending to be sick and opting out by spring.
I know this isn’t the case for every child; some kids truly love the extracurricular activities they’re involved in. If your kid has the passion to keep at the activity you signed them up for, more power to you! Maybe they’ll end up on an Olympic team, or find an outlet to express themselves through when times get tough. But unless my kids are begging me to join a team or take lessons in a specific activity, I probably won’t be signing them up for anything.
Swimming is the one exception, for safety, because we spend a lot of time near or on lakes when it’s warm.
I will admit that part of this is self-preservation. I refuse to schlepp my kids from activity to activity almost every day of the week, if they’re not enamoured with what they’re doing. I know sacrifice is a part of parenthood, but I also know my own limits, and the anxiety involved in getting my kids out the door to swimming lessons alone tells me how I’d handle another three or four nights of that sort of thing.
Not participating in another extracurricular activity doesn’t mean that my kids are going to be sitting in front of the television, either. My daughter comes home most days and asks to do an activity in the house, like a science experiment or baking, or going on a walk and looking for different bugs. Those types of activities are just as valuable to a child as standing in outfield with a baseball glove for long stretches, or lining up to walk across the balance beam. I guess my point is, while it’s great for our kids to be active physically, it’s also great to keep their minds working once school is over, and perhaps in slightly different ways. It’s still our job as parents to foster a love of learning, curiosity, and creativity in our kids. The times that would normally be devoted to another hockey practice might be better put to use by encouraging their brains to work. That doesn’t mean homework, it means home play. And while school is primarily for exactly that, I think it’s important to not leave it solely up to the teachers to foster that love of learning, that creativity, and that inquisitiveness children have.
So, I promise not to judge you if your kid is in five different extracurricular activities a week, as long as you promise not to judge me if my kid is in only one.