Thursday, April 30, 2009

experiments in doing nothing...

After driving around like a complete maniac week after week after frigging week, last quarter I made the decision to cancel all extra-curricular activities for my kids that would involve me and at least one of them to spend more than an hour carpooling a day.

Which left us piano lessons because the teacher comes to our house.

Tali gladly gave up gymnastics, even though I thought it was the perfect sport for her. But because she was always so lukewarm about going, I figured that not being allowed to go would either illicit a negative reaction or none at all. She went with the latter.

Naomi gave up gymnastics, too, but in her case it's a little unfair because she never really understood that she was giving it up. She asks about it sometimes and I just tell her that there isn't any gymnastics today. I figure that pretty soon she'll stop asking.

And Samuel had to give up baseball this year, which was probably the biggest sacrifice. Except that although every March he swears he loves baseball and is just begging to to play, but April Fool's Day he's ready to quit. And since this sport requires 2-3 practices a week, I chose this year to not have to talk him into going to practice.

So the outcome so far is that this is heaven.
The kids come home from school and play. Samuel does his homework, the girls like to pretend to do homework and bedtime is infinitely easier when we haven't rushed around all evening to get everything finished. I'm saving hundreds of dollars in extracurricular activity fees and we're getting totally relaxing evenings to spend together. The kids play together, they practice piano (when we beg and then force them to), and they go through reams of paper creating their own cartoons and paper dolls. And when the afternoons are dry, they play games outside in the yard or on the swings and then come inside sweaty and dirty and happy.

But when everyone around us is participating in about two billion activities a week, it's hard to not wonder if I'm holding my kids back from something. What if Talia could be the next Nadia? What if this is going to be the year that Sam develops his obsession with soccer? And Naomi wants nothing more than to be the next Angelina Ballerina...

And I find myself wondering if I'm holding them back just because I cannot stand the afternoons in the car shuttling across town and back again.

So today it all ended.

I signed up the girls for summer ballet lessons. I signed up the bigs for Fall soccer, and I'm signing them all up for swimming lessons in June. And this summer we'll also have the craziness of summer camps and schedules changing weekly.

But I think this semester off thing was good and I'm going to make it an annual tradition. I feel totally refreshed (well, at least as far as carpooling goes) and even though I thought the kids would complain about not participating in some of the activities their friends were doing, they actually never did.

Not even once.

Which is sad when you consider how much these activities cost (and what you could've bought instead). And it makes you wonder how much of what your kids are doing is for you or for them. And it is certainly telling when you think about how much they're missing when they lose the opportunity to choose their own activities.

Tonight Naomi put on her ballet outfit to practice for her upcoming lessons in June. And Sam and Tali are truly excited about soccer. And having had a break from it all, I can see that they're ready to dive back in. But I think by the time next Spring rolls around, they'll also be ready to take a break again, too.


Becky said...

Who's "the bigs"?

Ha! I'm so the opposite. I have ONE kid and he's currently in soccer and Little League and I'm the team rep for both teams! It's insane but the truth is, we both love is. Especially baseball...

Ellen said...

I'm sure I'll be wondering about this same thing in the future.

When I was a kid I played softball for a season... and I had a lot of fun, but I wasn't all that good. For me it was just a passing fad.

I guess in the end I think people will find their passion... as long as they're exposed to all kinds of options. And by exposed, I don't neccesarily think they have to try everything. Just know it's an option. The older kids get... the more they'll figure out what they're passionate about.

Becky said...

So in giving up everything have you also given up your blog? COME BACK!

Becky said...
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