Saturday Simple Playtime: A Word on Extracurriculars

I was talking to two of my friends. They are both mothers. They are both excellent mothers. And they both feel guilty.

Their friends have their kids booked in more activities. There are activities before school. After school. Every. Day.

Some days we just lounge around,” one of my friends said. “Don’t you?”

Well…

“We sit around a lot,” I replied. “But I have my hand on the tiller while we do it.”

Yeah, we’re a bit unconventional. In the summer, my daughter is not signed up for any activities. During the school year, she will attend a half day preschool and go to two activities during the week. One of those activities is her therapy, on Fridays (when she doesn’t have school). That’s it.

And we’re more unconventional than that. I don’t feel guilty about not providing my daughter with every “enrichment” activity known to humankind. Not one bit.

Here are the reasons why:

1. Independent play time is VERY important. It allows kids to develop creativity and problem-solving skills. Learning that they can entertain themselves helps kids to build confidence.

2. We have become closer as a family, because we are able to spend time together, without rushing to the next activity. In this day and age, people are becoming more and more isolated. We provide a very secure home base for the Bean.

3. Instead of giving a little time and effort to many activities, Beanie is able to focus on one thing that really interests her. In her case, it is music. She spends all week re-enacting her music class sessions and has been singing the songs all summer.

4. None of us are stressed out, so we are much more patient with each other.

5. While Beanie is playing independently, I have time to myself. I can scrapbook, blog, or read. I am modelling that it is all right for me to have an identity beyond “Mommy.”

6. We all do housework together. The Bean “helps” out with her toy vacuum, a wash cloth, or her little broom. We take time and enjoy this activity as well.

7. We are able to eat meals together. Overbooking your child has not been proven to increase achievement; eating meals together has.

8. We have time to get together with extended family and friends. Beanie realizes that this is important.

Overbooking a child’s life is a desperate attempt to control that which is out of our hands. We have no idea if our children will become geniuses or if they will be unable to find jobs as adults. The future is unpredictable. We try to control it. We try to find anything that might possibly give our child an advantage. We do this out of love.

And it backfires. The children we love feel pressured, stressed, and overwhelmed. We feel tired.

We need to understand that there are things in life, in raising children, that we can not control. When we change our focus to those things we can control, our children are better for it. We can give them a safe, joyful home. We can help them to realize and focus on their passions. We can teach them responsibility. It’s a scary world out there. But what better tools to have, to prepare for it?

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