Good job, moms. You made it through the dance recital and little league baseball season. What’s next? A summer full of All-Stars or ballet intensives?
Something I Would Have Done Differently
Now that my three are all past these busy activities, let me share something I would have done differently: “You finish what you start.” We all say it. It’s what most of us heard from our own parents. But things are different now.
When I was a kid, I had a different activity every afternoon. Girl Scouts, dance, gymnastics, and piano. Except maybe dance, none of them really stuck. Looking back now, I realize my working mom was using all the activities as after school care.
When I had kids of my own, I signed them up for the usual. Of course my son would play baseball. With his late summer birthdate, he played at a smaller park where he could start playing rag ball at three years old. I was so excited to wear a “Cory’s Mom” shirt, overlooking that it was that puke yellow color. I wore that shirt with pride as I nudged him to run to each base bribing him with Smarties.
Whether you call it “Daddy ball” or not, a boy will likely not be pushed to reach his fullest potential on the baseball field without someone at home who begins and continues a simple game of catch. Today, most leave their local park for travel ball. More playing time and more competition elevates the level of the ball player. This makes it more challenging for the kid still at the park to make the school team.
I kept it real with my son. His age group had some serious athletes. We’d make a list of the players who were clear choices for the team. He had the aptitude and desire to make the team, but not quite the umph to put in the work to get there.
When my son was ten years old I asked him, “Your childhood is almost half way over. Is there anything you’ve ever wanted to try?”
His answer? “Guitar.” I had no idea.
I picked up a guitar at a pawn shop. After a few lessons, he caught on quickly, playing
“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Hotel California” for his ’80’s mom.
He never asked about playing youth football. Thank goodness. With two toddler girls and the 8:00 a.m. Saturday games across town, I didn’t mention it.
After I purchased a snare drum in middle school, he decided to try football. His asthma kept him from making the team with a coach who made cuts. Don’t get me started on the concept that a sideline full of middle school football players, even bench riders, could reduce the line at the principal’s office for fighting during PE.
Though he was never a starter, he understood his role on the team: to help prepare his teammates who were starters. His love of the game inspired a brief interest in coaching. He stayed on after graduation as a volunteer assistant “coach.”
In between all his activities was lots of screen time. Too much by most parents’ standards. But I allowed it because I saw (and heard . . . very loudly) my introverted kid becoming a leader among his peers playing games online.
All those hours of gaming did inspire a future in computer science. My only regret is that his obsession with swords faded before he was old enough to take fencing lessons.
Next up, my girls. Activities for my daughter with special needs are easy. She participates in what is available for her. I’m not going to be that mom who forces any activity to include my daughter who has Down syndrome. Pageants, dance, basketball, baseball, and taught herself baton–she does it all.
This is Really Where I Would Have Done Things Differently
My youngest daughter is a dancer who switched gears on me. She wanted to be a cheerleader. She could be a great athlete, too. But we never made time to try softball, volleyball, or soccer.
That’s what’s changed about today: the pressure to find their thing and the demand to only focus on one thing.
Her daddy really wanted her to play piano. She took (not cheap) lessons through a college, luckily from a neighbor. She didn’t practice, and I was not going to nag her. The teacher moved and the lessons stopped.
After the post dance recital thrill, we thought we wanted more dance. Adding a few competitions was a nice step up. Going all-in full dance company wasn’t a fit.
Adding travel expenses and hours of workshops wasn’t the right investment of time or money for our family. She didn’t enjoy working towards earning judges’ scores on technique. It was a joy to watch her perform. I really miss watching her dance.
She’s worked hard to make high school cheer year after year. There’s always room to advance her tumbling skills. I wish we had stuck with it when she was little and unafraid. To her daddy’s delight, she has found her way back to the piano.
So What Would I Do Differently?
Instead of saying, “You finish what you start,” I’d say, “Let’s give it 90 days.” Of course you’d never want to leave a team scrambling to fill a position. There are opportunities to test drive activities like flag football, fall baseball, and Upward sports.
Summer is a good time to find a music, dance, cheer, or tumbling camp. My two cents about tumbling . . . have them learn it while they are little and fearless.
Our Kids Aren’t Little For Long
These years go by so fast. It would be awesome if they could all earn an athletic or performing arts scholarship. Statistically, they won’t.
So fill your school day afternoons, Saturdays, and summers exploring all their options.
Discover Which Activities Ignite a Passion in Your Kid
Ask them what they’d like to try. Chances are it might not be the same as yours. It could be something you never expected.