With Our Kids’ Activities, When Is Enough, Enough?

 

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My young swimmers.

 

One of the many struggles of raising kids has to do with their extracurricular activities. What should we sign them up for and how much should they do?

The first thing we signed our kids up for was swimming. In fact, we started with a “mommy and me” class at our city pool when they were six months old. From there we went on to private swim lessons. The reason for our focus on the pool was water safety. We live in an area where most homes and all apartments and condos have pools, including our home. Young children die every year where we live and I was doing all I could to make sure my kids would not be included in those numbers.

While at the pool, we noticed older kids swimming laps with the Piranha Swim Team. We were impressed with their technique and the exciting energy of the team when they were on deck. We asked our children’s instructor if she thought our kids could ever make the team. When our son was six or seven years old, our instructor said he was ready. By that time we were taking him to piano lessons once a week, Boy Scouts, Karate, Tennis and had already dropped Tee Ball. Doesn’t that sound like a ridiculous amount of activities for one wee kid?

I remember racing from school to one activity followed by another. Realizing I forgot something, I erratically made a U-turn and hit a curb. I was shaking as I called Triple A to change my flat tire. Something had to change. This was not a healthy way to live.

We let go of Boy Scouts and Karate. We stuck with piano lessons and swimming. My son continued with tennis for a few years and in middle school tried basketball at his school, plus school plays.

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My daughter in royal blue.

 

I enrolled my daughter in ballet because that was my passion. Piano too, because it is supposed to do so much for mathematics and the brain. She wanted to swim, not be a ballerina. And she hated piano with a passion. She throws it out from time to time, how I forced her to take piano years beyond what was reasonable. It took both her ballet and piano teacher to suggest that enough was enough!

I wrote a story this week for SwimSwam.com with five tips for when your child wants to miss practice. There are so many things I’ve learned through the years. I wish I could go back and let my son know that he didn’t have to go to swim meets or practice and his love of music was just as important. I’d ask him if he wanted to quit, but he’d always say, “No, I love swimming.” He did, but he had interests that he was more passionate about and he didn’t want to disappoint us, because we’d invested so much of our family time around the pool and team. He wanted to be in Junior Statesmen of America. Plus, he started a band was writing music and performing around the area. We tried to make room for everything, but it was a struggle. Also, if I could get a redo, I’d have let my daughter quit piano early on. Why go through daily battles of practice and dragging your kids to an activity they don’t enjoy?

My advice looking back is to expose them to a number of activities and let them find their passion. Then support them wholeheartedly in whatever they choose. Also, don’t overschedule them. Allow them downtime to dream, reflect, play and be kids.

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A duet at the annual piano recital.

 

What advice do you have when choosing activities for your kids?

 

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How ballet and swimming are eerily the same

 

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My daughter didn’t want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

There was a period of time in my life when I danced. I was as passionate about ballet as my daughter is about swimming. Today I had lunch with a fellow Catholic school mom, who not only was a mentor to me with two older children in our school, but she was one of my ballet instructors, too. I haven’t talked to her for what seems forever–except for a chance meeting at the grocery store.

Her life forever changed when my husband was urging me to put away my computer and go to work with him. I confessed to my mentor/ballet teacher that I wanted to write, not work as a stockbroker. We were sitting across the long tables in the school gym at some parent meeting.

“I’ll do it!” she said. I looked at her in disbelief. She was a former Broadway dancer, a soloist in the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular and a former ballerina. Why would she want to enter into the financial world? But she did it. She went to work in my husband’s office and I went on with writing.

But what a mistake I made. I lost my ballet class. A special time in my life when my kids were both in elementary school, I spent several days a week in the dance studio with Elyssa, my teacher. There weren’t many of us, but it was a wonderful group. I told her today that it reminds me of my Masters swim group.

Here are a few things that ballet and swimming have in common:

• While you’re working out you do keep an eye out to see what everyone else is doing.

• We have great conversations with our instructor and each other (yes, we do in Masters, too, with a firm reminder by our coach to “keep moving” if the chat lasts too long while we linger at the wall.)

• We became a close-knit group in ballet class and were supportive of one another—just like my Masters group. We had a bonding moment at the start of class while we laid on the floor stretching. That’s when we could talk and share what was going on in our lives.

• Like Masters, we had a warm-up, went through some drills (combinations at the barres) and then the main set in the pool, or in ballet class when put the barres away and move to the center.

• In ballet, we ended with jumps, just like we end with a short kick set in the pool. Then the reverence to end the class reminds me of the warm down laps before I push myself out of the pool.

• Both swimming and ballet are very physically demanding and challenging. They both require a lot of inside the brain time, too—and they offer a release and an escape from all the other stuff going on in one’s life.

Interesting that I’ve realized I’m dancing in the pool. I haven’t changed that much after all, except I’ve found swimming is better for my knees.12745503_10209017757384931_7005852646538628157_n

What type of exercise do you find the most rewarding and how does it make a difference in your life?