I just spent the entire weekend at events for my children – getting them ready, driving them, cheering them on, taking them home, and feeding them out of cycle. At one point during the fourth event of the day, a 5 pm soccer game, another mom looked over at me and asked “Why do we do this again?” I must admit, I have been doing this for so long now that I don’t recall what I did before my kids took over my free time.
Why do we do this? I ask my husband this frequently. After all, we are not young and these activities take up a lot of time – theirs and mine. Between tutoring, music lessons, sports practices and games, school enrichment activities, there is not much time left even when we split it up. My parents did this when I was young. They had 5 children. It didn’t look hard when they did it, but there was more carpooling. We live in the city. The kids can’t really can go outside and play in the street – unfortunately our street doesn’t have any children their age. If they weren’t doing this activity that takes a good deal of my time, they would just be on electronic devices and I would feel like a bad parent and all the guilt – oh my!
When they were younger, I wanted to instill in them that physical activity was good for them. I also wanted them to fall asleep when I put them to bed. I still want those two things. As they have gotten older, I now want them to experience some of the life lessons team sports and individual sports can teach. And I want them to have a diverse group of friends – not just the people they go to school with.
We’ve tried many sports. For each child. What we know for sure is that our children will not go to college on sports scholarships, will not go to the Olympics, and will not play professional sports. We hope they make their high school team in some athletic endeavor. I also hope that they have been exposed to a variety of things in a way that encourages them to try new things. Frisbee golf? Why not. Fencing? Sure.
If they are not natural athletes, what is our goal for these activities and why do we sacrifice so much of our free time in pursuit of the next game/meet/practice? Why? At the end of the conversation, my husband and I acknowledge that we are pushing them to better themselves. When we encounter a good coach, we encourage them to get the most from that experience. My son happens to play one sport well but doesn’t love it. He doesn’t make the cuts for the sport he loves. For about two years, my daughter who has quit every sport but swimming, complained about going to practice. I would not let her quit and I gave her consequences when she was late on purpose. I explained that her father and I did not give her the ‘quit’ gene. It is ok to finish the season and agree not to pursue it in the future, but not to quit in the middle of the season. My son was complaining about going to practice one night and I heard my daughter say to him – “We have to go, we are not quitters.”
I have watched both kids grow socially from being on sports. We have had some good experiences and some bad experiences. We exchange knowing looks with other parents who are in the same place we are with their children – we are finding out way.