May 20, 2012

Too Much

Bennett and I were chatting the other day about sports.  He was telling me that almost all the boys in his grade were playing baseball right now.  And that before that, they were all playing basketball.  And before that, they were all playing football.  He wondered out loud, "When do they rest?"

Good point, my son.

I asked him if he felt left out because he wasn't playing baseball.  He replied, "No!  I want to play one thing and get really good at it.  That's why I chose basketball.  I'd like to play baseball, but with Daddy.  I don't want to play on a team and have to have lots of practices again.  Then I wouldn't have time to just play or be with you guys.  It's all too much, Mom!"

Why can a kid see this and adults can't?

He went on to tell me about his friend.  "Mom, my friend doesn't have any toys in his room.  And his Dad isn't nice to him, neither is his brother.  So he either has video games or sports.  I can understand why he plays sports all the time.  But then when he grows up, he'll think playing sports all the time is normal..." and I finished his sentence with,  "...and spending time with your family is not."

I actually find this current social fascination of putting your child in some extra curricular activity each season a negative.  I personally see it as activity suggesting a life full of meaning.  We justify these activities with statements such as, "I want my child to experience all different types of things" all the while thinking, what am I going to do with them during the summer, I can't have them hanging around the house for goodness sakes.    So we over-schedule them.   We put them in every camp imaginable because it will be "fun".  We sign them up for every sport during the proper season because we want to give our kid the opportunities we didn't get as kids or think they somehow deserve.

What they "deserve" is time with their parents.

But we're really doing them a disservice in the long run.  By schelling out money left and right for this activity and that activity we're only encouraging our children's natural bent toward egocentrism.  Kids naturally think the world revolves around them.  It is our job as the parents to teach them it doesn't.  However, when we sign them up for every activity under the sun and spend all our extra money on them, and sacrifice all our extra time carting them to and from each event/activity, we're only feeding and reinforcing that egocentrism.  We are proving with our actions that they are more important than our family unit as a whole.

I'm not against extra curricular activities.  I think kids can learn valuable lessons through these endeavors.  But they need to be balanced with family time.  Moms and Dads need to impart their life and time into their kids.  And you can't do that when the kids are never home.  You can't do that when you are just the driver getting them to and from their activities.  You can't do that if you never eat dinner together or play together.  And we wonder why our children don't share our sense of values or want to spend time with us as they get older.  

Children need time! Lots of it...to play, to process what they're learning in the world.  Play is learning.  Play is super important.  Too much structured time and too little play leads to very frustrated kids.  Kids who are always catered to, being allowed to take part in any and everything they fancy, never learn to appreciate anything.  

Less is  more!
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