Recently a friend confided that she didn't have her child registered for a million things this fall, and people kept asking her what he was going to be doing, and she began to feel like she was doing something wrong. As my kids are a little older than hers, I said I've been through this and feel it's a common problem in our society today. Most days, I feel good saying exactly what she did; that I value our down time as a family, and that in general kids value leisure more than scheduled lessons or activities.
I decided this a few years ago, when I started to notice that many preschoolers and elementary-aged kids were in not one but three or four weekly activities in a single season. Gymnastics, music, soccer, baseball, swimming, dance and hockey were just a few of the various options open to parents. I watched children be signed up and ferried to and from these activities, and I became aware of a growing fear that my kids were being left behind.
I've always adopted a policy that my kids can do one thing at a time, and that if they try something, they need to stick to it even when they would rather quit. This has worked well for us as a family, as it means we aren't running all week long, but usually commit to just one thing per week per child during the school year.
I still believe this in theory, but in practice it is sometimes harder to stick to my principles. I remind myself that they don't have to be masters of anything when they are under ten years of age. These early years of childhood don't get to be repeated, and I want them filled with memories of spontaneous games and imaginative playtime. I love that Ava goes to school and then comes home for an hour of quiet reading time in the solitude of her bedroom to unwind from the busy nature of her day. I want her to keep that time where she refreshes her spirit before jumping into Barbies or Polly Pockets.
We all have so many hard decisions to make as parents, each and every day. We have to do what feels right for ourselves, our kids and our family in general. We try things, and sometimes they succeed and other times they fail, and then we try something else. We have to extend grace, to ourselves and to others, when we try new things. And I must remember that what works for me doesn't necessarily work for other people, and those differences make us better people, if we allow them to exist and don't let them divide us.