Thursday, June 14, 2012

on being vs. doing

I never understood this type of statement: my four year old goes to ballet twice a week and the other two days she takes violin. On Sundays, she plays soccer, and in the summer it is karate camp. She loves all of them!

Who loves all of them: the child? Or do you love being the parent of such a child? Or does it sound good on her kindergarten resume?

My kids never expressed interest in any of those extracurricular activities. (With the exception of drums by 8 yo). Maybe they would mention once how they would like to play this or do that, but it never came to begging to sign them up for anything. The gymnastics that the boys were doing came as a result of me deciding that it would be a good physical outlet for my middle child instead of him scaling walls. 8 yo joined him this past year because it looked cool, but there were plenty of days when neither one of them seemed eager to go. At the end of the year, both boys told me they do not want to continue, so we stopped. So far, they have not asked for anything else.

I have been waiting for them to find that one thing that they would REALLY want to do, and for the pestering that comes with it. The kind when kids get puppy fever and promise and swear to take care of it and walk it and brush it and love it and clean up its messes, just, mommy, PLEEEASE?! Honestly, there has not been any activity that they begged for like that.

Drumming is an exception. 8 yo asked about it for many months, not in a pestering sort of way, but in a consistent manner. I had not considered it while he was in school, as there simply was not any time to drive to a lesson and then practice at home. Now that he had been home, we were able to pull it off, but, mildly speaking, he had cooled off to it. I have a feeling that in his head he was supposed to turn into a rock star the second he put his hands on the drum sticks and the reality of hard practice stinks. I am not sure what to be doing with this. I want to encourage him to persevere, but, at the same time, considering my personal traumatic piano practice, when he says "enough", I might need to stop.

I have been wondering what's behind this lack of requests for other activities. Maybe my kids are very good at just being. They come up with games and activities by themselves all the time. I do not always know what they are playing, but they are constantly playing and I am constantly interrupting this play to do something: eat, sleep, do school work, go to the store... When they are playing, they are not doing anything that is considered admirable in the adult world. Worse, they are not doing anything that parents can brag about to one another. Who wants to hear about my son, the expert couch-cushion-house builder?

I know that my kids have their passions, but they are not neatly translatable into acceptable categories. I know that as they get older, they will be able to latch onto a passion and pursue it. In the meanwhile, I will sit back and enjoy saving thousands of dollars by letting my kids be.


  1. Great Post. I feel the same way! BTW, I also had a traumatic piano learning experience, but I do miss that I gave it up so easily. Had my mother encouraged me properly, "good job, I'm proud of you!", it would have been so different. Encourage your drummer, maybe see why it's not good for him anymore, if it's something you can help with. I love this post.

  2. I couldn't agree more. I think a lot of parents prefer their children to activities because it makes the parent feel better. They feel that they are giving to their child or meeting some (imagined) need. In reality, I expect most kids would rather just run around and play and have real, quality time with their parents. Sadly, I think too many parents off-load their parenting duties to the teachers of these activities. So many parents cannot imagine a long stretch of the day-- or week!-- with their child and no "activities".