Every spring, summer and fall I am inundated with questions about what kind of activities we are enrolling our kids in.
“Will we see you at spring soccer?” asks one chipper school mom. “Did you get on the waiting list for swim lessons?” chides another.
And meanwhile, I’m over here all like, “Um, well [insert mumble here].”
Because here’s the thing — I don’t want to get my kids enrolled in every activity under the sun. I am 100 percent OK with them doing absolutely nothing.
I have to admit, when I hear moms complaining about how busy they are carting their preschoolers and kindergarteners around to all of their various activities and sports, I can’t help but raise one skeptical eyebrow, because… Hello? Who’s in charge here? You don’t get to complain about how busy you are taking your 3-year-old to tae kwon do if you’re the one who signed him up for it in the first place.
Look, I’m a stay-at-home mom with a lot of little kids and I get that, sometimes, kids’ activities are more for the parents than the kids. It’s good for everyone involved to get out of the house and burn off some energy. And I also fully get that once my children are a little bit older, they will be clamoring and begging to join their friends in the latest and greatest sports. But until that day hits, I will be enjoying just hanging out at home with my kids and letting them burn off energy the old-fashioned way — using their imaginations.
I’m all about my children keeping busy and the last thing I want to do is have my kids sit at home doing nothing. But sometimes, doing nothing is teaching my children a valuable lesson, and as hard as it may be for us as parents to sometimes do, letting them have that growth without the pressure of a schedule can be important.
“Allowing your child to test himself against his environment, experiment with different forms of expression and find his gift is an important part of parenting,” says Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D. And while she extols the virtues of team sports in teaching kids about effort, inner resources, motivation and how to work with others, she cautions that it’s important to give kids freedom to find their own passions. “If sports are not for him, let him try other interests, from which he may discover his gift.”
In my mind, there’s a difference between thwarting opportunities for your child and deliberate downtime. My husband and I just happen to be of the mindset that when kids are younger, it’s best to let them get plenty of fresh air, exercise and freedom to explore their own interests — without the hassle of extracurricular activities. Like most things in life, we take it on an individual kid-by-kid, season-by-season basis and as long as we’re all happy and healthy, I say do what works for you. While the rest of the moms are zooming to the next activity in their minivans, lattes in hand, I’ll be happily at home watching my kids play.
But I’ll definitely keep the latte.