“Is that all?”
That’s what the mom said after she asked my daughter what activities she participated in after school.
My daughter gave her the list of activities, and the mom looked at me dumbfounded and said, “Is that all?”
Well, yes, that was all, and it was a thoughtful list of activities that my daughter enjoyed, but that question completely shook my confidence. I struggled to come up with a simple response that would adequately describe our parenting philosophy without stuttering out a whole big thing or sounding defensive.
My daughter had no such qualms, she truthfully replied for me by saying, “Yes, the rest of the time I like to relax and do nothing.”
You go, girl.
That ended the conversation, but my confidence in my parenting choices was rattled, and that night I needed my husband to talk me down off the ledge of parental guilt and remorse for limiting my daughter’s opportunities and thus ruining her chances at a successful life.
Do you struggle with deciding how many and which activities your kids will participate in? It’s hard. Stories about the hazards of over-scheduled and pressured kids abound, but so do all of the great opportunities. There are so many fun, educational, enriching things that our kids can do that it is hard to choose…or eliminate. The real issue is that word – eliminate. If we eliminate an activity, are we closing a door for the rest of their life? Are we ruining our kids’ chance for success in life?
Who wants that kind of guilt? No wonder we over-schedule our kids.
My husband and I have had this discussion many times. If we eliminate dance, are we ruining her chances at getting a “good part” in the musical? If we eliminate Scouts, are we ruining his chances to show leadership on the college resumes? If we eliminate playing in the summer league, will it ruin his chances at starting in the fall?
After years of rushing around, and carpools, and late nights, though, we came to believe that we should be asking ourselves some other questions. If we eliminate this activity will we be able to have family dinners? If we choose not to do this, will it allow our kids to go to bed at a decent hour? If we eliminate this activity, will it be a relief? These kinds of questions didn’t lead to quantifiable accomplishments, but they did lead us to a happier, more relaxed family.
This year my daughter took up an after-school sport that is one of those great opportunities, but it also meant that she wouldn’t be able to begin her homework until after 8 p.m.… if she continued with her dance classes. Neither of us thought that would be good for her grades or her sleep, and so we decided to let dance go. It was a bittersweet choice, and maybe one day we will regret it, but not nearly as much as I would regret robbing her of her chance to say, “the rest of the time I like to relax and do nothing.”
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Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, a teacher-librarian, and a mom of four almost grown kids. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student where her goal is helping parents to keep family life a priority and school success in perspective. Her work has been featured in On Parenting from the Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Perfection Pending, and Today Parents.