Why are we always trying to overload our children?
I was reading the Metro news the other day (a free newspaper given in the Metro in Canada), and was taken aback by a mother listing all the activities of her two sons. I can’t quite remember the entire list but it went something like this:
- ice skating
- [insert two or three more here]
I read through the entire list of activities, and figured it was about 4 activities per child, assuming she didn’t enroll the both of them into all of the listed items.
I find this ridiculous because it’s as though all of these activities are more important than studying or just being a kid.
My family is not immune to this, because they have no less than 3 activities each, and 2 “events” per child every weekend that they have to attend.
(Going to an Indigo Storytime Reading Session is considered an “event”, in this case, as is a sleepover or a birthday party).
WE SEEM TO PLACE GREAT IMPORTANCE ON EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES OVER “WORK”
More so than anywhere else, I see that in North America we tend to place a very high importance on doing stuff that is not work.
School for children, is their “job” or their “work”, in my opinion.
Work would then include studying, or reading ahead in textbooks so that you’re prepared for the next lesson in class. Everything else, is a hobby to enrich your life.
To translate that into adult life, I have plenty of hobbies, but I don’t think that my hobbies should take over let’s say, getting my work done on time at my job.
I’m not about to go out and take half a day off each day just to blog, while neglecting my actual workload, so why are we teaching our children these values that having a hobby is more important than a job?
Sure, it’s more FUN, but life isn’t fun 100% of the time.
WE CAN’T SEEM TO LET OUR KIDS JUST BE … BORED KIDS
We need to fill every. single. minute. of. their. little. overworked. hectic. schedules.
This makes it even harder on parents because they have their OWN overworked, hectic schedules that they have to follow for work and their own personal life.
I spent plenty of time, bored out of my skull as a kid.
I started building dollhouses out of old tissue boxes and learning how to play alone, which led to a lot of reading and playing the piano.
Aside from the requisite piano and language lessons, I didn’t have booked weekends of sleepovers, story time sessions or being chauffeured around from activity to activity.
If I wanted to pick up another instrument (and I did, I picked up two more instruments during school), I had to get MYSELF to those places to be there for practice three times a week at 7 a.m. before school started, and to get myself back and fro from competitions and concerts.
My parents were barely anywhere to be found in helping me play these two extra instruments.
Heck, they didn’t even show up to my concerts, which was a little bit too far and dare I say, lazy on their part.
WE VALUE SACRIFICING OUR OWN PERSONAL LIVES FOR THE SAKE OF OUR CHILDREN
By “we” I mean society in general, seems to place great importance on “sacrificing” for our children.
We give up our time, our money, our retirement funds, our sleeping-in-time on the weekends, just so that our children can have each and every ounce and fiber of our essence and being.
They wake up at 5 a.m. to drive their kid to the hockey rink, or spend their weekends and their money driving from city to city for hockey matches, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, while simultaneously shelling upwards to $10,000 for hockey gear and accessories so that their kids are properly equipped to play the sport.
Good on them for wanting to do it at the start (those eager beavers), but don’t they ever think to themselves on occasion and groan:
I wish Jack would just give up hockey so I could get errands done on the weekends rather than having to cram it in after work.
Also, this hockey is costing us a fortune!
We martyr ourselves and call this “sacrifice for the greater good” but is it really?
Are kids really more fulfilled if we sacrifice our own personal lives and put our agendas on hold for them?
I am obviously not a fan of this, but for me to say this, would perhaps garner reactions from other parents like: “Oh.”, which translates into: “I don’t understand why you don’t WANT to sacrifice your life for your kid and give them the very possibly best start in life? Shame on you!”
KIDS JUST GROW UP ASSUMING THIS IS NORMAL TO BE #1 ALL THE TIME
Don’t these kids just grow up thinking that it’s normal that your parents are basically your slaves and chauffeurs?
That they’re there to pay for anything they want to do (that’s fun of course), and they have to do it with a smile on their face?
I see the result in the children my mother has to teach. They’re expecting her to bend over backwards for them because they’ve been conditioned and programmed to understand that they’re #1 in everyone’s life.
But honestly, when did children become the bosses?
The parents are the bosses.
However now kids are deciding what you do with your personal life as well and you have no say in it at all?
Doesn’t that sound ridiculous to you? It does to me.
MY RULE: ONLY TWO ACTIVITIES A WEEK
My rule? Only 2 activities a week.
For me, it’s going to be one language (school on Saturday mornings), and then either a music activity (maybe I can just save money and teach my kids to play piano), or anything else that they wish to do, as long as it doesn’t involved competitions out of town and all that money & hassle.
Yes, in short, they can do what they want as long as it doesn’t inconvenience my own personal time and life too greatly.
I am a person too, you know.
Otherwise, there’ll be none of this ridiculous scheduling around my children because one has piano lessons, and then the other has soccer, but then they both have to get out in time for ice skating, all on the same day.
What do you think about all of this?
I have twins and my policy is 2 activities per season but the list can easily become long when you look at it on an annual basis. Being in Canada, swimming and skating are mandatory skills in my opinion and since I can do neither, I have to pay someone else to teach them.
I also think they will benefit from a physical arts activity to foster positive body image at a young age (dance, gymnastics and/or self-defense), a musical talent (musical instrument lessons but not starting till they turn 5) and a second language (luckily being taught in school).
The long-term benefit I see in all this is that most childhood hobbies become stress-management refuge in adulthood. It’ll be a shame if they didn’t have those hobbies to fall back on when they grow up. Exposing them to a variety of activities at a young age helps them (and us) pinpoint where their interests lie. It’s been a challenge balancing my aspirations for my kids to be well-rounded with my need for a simple life but so far, the 2 activities per season works great – even with me working full time outside the home.
Funny thing, I wanted to take my cousin to the library when she was little, as she was struggling a bit with Language Arts. Nothing too crazy, just take her to the library every other week and get her interested in books. Unfortunately, I as a working professional had to schedule around her myriad of activities (swimming, dancing, piano, language school, her sleepovers with her friends), so we ended up going only once. I wanted to make it a regular occurrence, but the 8-year old just couldn’t seem to fit me in her schedule.
Now as a teenage, she still struggles with English, and part of it is because she has no interest in reading. Except magazines. Which doesn’t count. I’m not saying that I would have had a huge impact just taking her to the library, but when I was a kid, that’s what my parents did for me, and I turned out alright.
I wasn’t entertained every minute of my life, in fact, I had to entertain myself and (gasp!) use my imagination! And when I was bored, I found something to do – drawing, playing make-believe games, running around outside, etc. Is that such a crazy idea?!
When our son was young, we allowed him one activity per season. Baseball in the spring and summer, football in the fall and basket ball in the winter. He did have swim lessons in the summer for a few years, but I considered that a necessity rather than an activity. (No competitive swimming.) We had too many kids on some of his teams who couldn’t make baseball practice because they had a soccer game; yet they still expected to be a starter on the baseball team….when they actually showed up for the games. It put the whole team at a disadvantage and was not fair to their teammates. I think too many parents think an abundance of activities is an indicator of social success, which is pretty sad because too many times, their kids could not care less.
Totally agree with you 100% when I was young I asked my mom to do ballet, I then grew tired of it (not because I gave up or wasn’t good but because I wanted to be a kid, to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings and laze around!) I still did a few activities but it did not become an obsession to me. My parents never pushed me, they encouraged me to do well but they did not want me to be number 1 at all costs. I do not have children yet, am in my thirties and most of my friends and coworkers overbook their children to a bunch of activities that I wonder if they really actually want to participate in or if the parents are just doing it to look good. They also look down upon other parents who do not sign up their children to enough extracurricular activities. I think to each their own, I myself will not be forcing my child into anything, I agree with your max 2 activities rule. I firmly believe that a lot of people have depressions and are on anti-anxiety meds because of such behaviours. Doing nothing is considered a failure, but sometimes you need to just sit back and recharge your batteries, both adults and children! Thank you for this article. I think you are right!.
i had no comment but Wow, I wish my parent did this for me and my brothers. they just keep working for us and did not see them lives.
I really enjoyed reading your post. I can totally relate to the over scheduling of extra curriculum activities.. It’s not easy juggling different activities, differents kids ( I got 3 ), different schools. I often wondered why I agreed to be a part of it. To cut a long story short, my eldest is “talented” in sport and she’s been selected by her school to do athletics ( 1 hr once a week + competitions ), football ( one hour once a week + matches ), karate ( 1 to 3 hr once a week plus tournament ) & swimming ( 5 to 6 hr per week plus competitions). On top of that, she goes to madrasah ( religious school 3 times a week) & to French school every Saturday. We’re never home before 8pm & got activities every day. Crazy hey? She’s now in her last year of primary school and even she’s starting to realise that she needs more time off, just doing nothing and being herself. It might sounds strange but I kinda wanted HER to see you couldn’t do it all and that you have to prioritize and make, sometimes difficult, decisions. She’s asked to stop some activities after the Christmas holidays. I’m happy to oblige but most importantly I’m happy she’s realized that she doesn’t have to do every single sport she’s good at. It’s difficult for her because sports is her life but I’m sure she’ll thrive when she does less. ( in case you wonder, her sister only goes swimming & fencing once a week, much more manageable ?)