As parents, one thing Chris and I have purposefully shied away from is over-scheduling our kids. Remember last summer (or was it two ago now?) when I over scheduled Bean as soon as he turned three? Three is the magical number when it comes to extra-curriculars, and as soon as he was able to participate in anything, I signed him up.
He was in soccer, swimming lessons, Vacation Bible School, and a summer imagination movement camp at Chris’s theater. By the third week of his new schedule, Bean was OVER IT and I was right there with him.
I learned from that experience. Just because kids reach a certain age does not mean that I should automatically push them into the deep end of a social life. Not that this is the case for everyone. I know lots of kids that are involved in multiple activities and commitments and they love every minute of it. But for Bean, it was a little much.
Since then, I have really not signed either of my kids up for much. Bean was in choir at our church still, but that was on Sunday mornings during Sunday School, so there was no other obligation there. Both are in swimming lessons, but that just started a couple weeks ago.
Sometimes I hear other parents talking about tee ball practice and little league football and ballet lessons and soccer games, and I momentarily panic, thinking that I am robbing my children of all these memories. I get this frantic feeling in the pit of my stomach and my mind starts to race with thoughts like, “Why aren’t MY kids doing that? Where can I sign them up? When did the season start? How did I not know EVERYONE was doing this except us?”
But then I take a deep breath and remind myself that my kids are three and four years old. If they haven’t started organized sports yet, I’m pretty sure there is still time before they go off to college.
This summer, Bean is old enough to participate in a few different drop-off camp programs around our neighborhood. Chris and I are eager for him to do some of those because we are hoping he’ll meet some kids he will be in school with in the fall. He’s doing VBS at our church, plus an imagination camp at our church. He’s also doing a Llama Llama themed “preparing for kindergarten” camp a little closer to the fall. All of the camps are one week only and meet from 9:00 until noon, and I figure three weeks out of nine in the summer is a pretty good ratio for involvement and hanging with me.
(By the way, these are their pirate faces… they aren’t mad…)
In the fall, we are going to let Bean play tee ball. He started asking this past spring and still mentions it whenever we drive past the softball fields near our house. I think he’s ready to be part of a team. And I’ve thought about signing Gracie up for ballet lessons then, too. Though, my gut tells me it’s too soon for her, but we’ll see how my gut feels when fall rolls around.
This part of parenthood sort of surprises me about myself, actually. I figured I would be a pusher parent. One of those who wanted and insisted their kids were involved in everything they could get their hands on. Mostly, I assumed I would be that kind of parent because that’s the kind of person that I am. I like to be involved, and if you tell me there’s something to join, I’m probably going to try to join it. And then be active. And then lead it. Chris says it’s a disease I have. I say I’m just very involved.
When it comes to parenting, though, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that what I covet for my children is a strong family life first. And it’s not that valuing family is a surprise to me. It’s that I’m choosing to exercise that value through being very choosy about what and when my kids are involved in things.
I know they will grow up, and as they do, I hope their schedules fill up, too. I want my kids to be active and involved as they grow. I want them to learn how to manage their time and work hard for something and to be part of a team. I want them to take pride in accomplishments that are separate and distinct from Chris and me. I want to sit on sidelines and wear tee shirts that say, “MICHAEL’S MOM” or “GRACIE’S GROUPIES.” I want Friday nights at Cub Scouts and Saturday mornings at swim meets or ballfields. Or both. Chris and I are so excited about all of those things to come.
But in our house, and for our family, those things can wait just a little bit until my kids are ready. Sometimes that means I worry that I a missing opportunities for them. But more often than not, I think my three and four-year-old are happier just swimming in our pool (or sitting in their water table?) than wearing a team jersey. And that is completely fine with me.