Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing Prompt #3 - January 19

I really liked the writing prompt that I picked for this week. When I looked at the list it was pretty easy for me to choose this one, because I had just been talking with a friend of mine recently about how ridiculously over-involved children are these days. So without further ado, my writing prompt:

3. 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 absolutely firmly 100% agree with this statement. The days of children looking forward to a summer of nothing but freedom and laziness are gone. Or a weekend of lying around. Parents start worrying about how to diversify their children’s experiences and fatten up their child’s entrance letter for college from the moment they make their entrance into the world. I feel confident in saying that the above statement is true; because I can name specific people that I am acquainted with who believe that more is, well, more.

I know of families whose children are in every conceivable activity. Sports all year around, with no real break between seasons. Summers filled with daily activities, so that it’s hard for the family to even figure out how to take a family vacation together. Mom and Dad juggling who is going to take which child to which activity, and maybe even having to call in extended family members to help with chauffeuring every now and then. All done in the name of giving your child “the best childhood” and the “most experiences for college.” Which is all fine and dandy. I am all for children doing more than just sitting on the couch watching television and playing video games all day every day. I’m all for the lessons of teamwork, cooperation and fair play that children learn from playing team sports. But since when do we have to start worrying about our child’s college admission when they are toddlers? Since when does a “good” childhood mean doing everything, and stretching your child (and yourself) so thin that they cannot truly enjoy a single thing they do? Why should “giving your children the best” equal impairing their ability to entertain themselves or find enjoyment with the simple things in life?

We have a middle of the road approach to extra-curricular activities. Zane played soccer and basketball every year from second to fifth grade. This year (sixth grade) he decided that he doesn’t want to play basketball anymore. So he doesn’t. He still plays soccer in the fall and in the spring. It’s always been the sport he is most interested in, so he’s focusing his efforts on that now. We live in a rather sports-obsessed town, where many children play sports all year round, maybe even two sports in one season. I am thankful that Zane has not succumbed to this mindset, that he knows his own mind and isn’t playing sports just to play. Luke and I started him in soccer and basketball when he was 7 because he was interested in both, and we thought it would be good for him to learn to work together with others and see his friends outside of school. Zane also plays the trumpet in the middle school band. Because he wants to. We told him last year when he wanted to play in 5th grade that he would have to play for the whole school year because we were paying for the trumpet. He’s not a huge fan of practicing, but he loves to play, and he even thinks he would like to learn to play the guitar now.

I usually enroll Zane in a few activities over the summer, because it gives him something to do, and it gives me some breathing room. He picks activities that he wants to do, but he certainly doesn’t gogogogogogo all day every day. He has time to go to his friends’ houses and hang around our house and even watch TV. I think Zane is able to entertain himself. He’s not so used to a constant barrage of activities that he gets bored when we have an afternoon at home. I really think that’s the way it should be. Zane’s college entrance letters may not be fattened up with a million activities, but he’s pretty dang good at the ones he has chosen to do. And I don’t have to do his homework for him, or sign band practice sheets for time he hasn’t practiced because he’s too busy running from one thing to the next. Family dinners and move nights are not an extremely rare thing to our family, and my children have time to be siblings and play together.

I know in today’s society my opinion may not be popular, or the norm. But I have a 12 year old who is growing up to be a pretty decent person – he’s smart, imaginative, funny and creative. And all of that without an extra-curricular activity for every day of the week.


Just Passing Through said...

I APPLAUD your thinking and I totally agree. I think one of the most important things a child can learn is to entertain himself/herself, to be comfortable being alone and exploring his/her own interests. It is too easy to get caught up in the group mentality and group activity and all the individual wonder and creativity that God gave that person at birth is lost and never utilized. I think family dinners and vacations and even movie nights are way under-rated and add more to a "balanced" healthy psyche than many people give credit. And I think both of your children are smart, talented, creative, and most of all HAPPY (and they have a loving relationship with each other) - I think your balanced approach is the BEST approach and your amazing family is proof.

Andie said...

I completely agree too! Too much is too much. Kids still need to be kids. Love this!

JDaniel4's Mom said...

It sounds like you have found a great balance for Zane. I hope I remember to do this for my son.

Sarah said...

I totally agree! My kids are quite young, and I am amazed at all the activities that other moms are putting their 4 year olds in.

Anonymous said...

After seeing my in-laws struggle with this issue (I seriously doubt any of them could pass up a sign-up sheet), my husband and I took the stance that it was ridiculous. The kids are allowed 1 extra curricular activity (aside from anything during school hours and church activities). This year there are no activities outside church due to a move after school started, and I can't believe how calm life is.

dderbydave said...

I so agree!
I think this is an American thing as here in England most parents limit things to a few activities each week.
Saying that, my brother (well to do) made a point of compressing as much as possible into every week with sometimes 2 activities per day for his kids. They both learned 2 instruments at a time and were really good little athletes. All their holidays were orienteering in far away parts. Then his eldest demanded a 'proper' holiday and the light dawned in his eyes. She was extremely talented and skilled but very very bored.
I wonder if it's just for the parents' benefit: being so so busy rushing around and organising sort of justifies your existence.
[just to clarify, I have 4 kids, one disabled and would go quietly insane if we had more than 2 activities per week per child]