Like most families, we are busy, but that’s the way we like it. I think my oldest was 2 ½ when we put him in his first soccer league, and I’ve been having fun from the sidelines ever since. Although that may seem early for athletics, he has had a blast each season. We are more of a football family now, but soccer is where it all began. My kids enjoy being physically and mentally active. Now that I have three in school, I find I need to be a little pickier about where we spend our evenings and weekends. The toughest part about extra-curricular activities is knowing when to step in and knowing when to step out. I find myself thinking, This is their life, not yours. Let them find their own path.
My sister and I grew up doing lots of things. Swimming lessons, 4-H, basketball, tennis, softball, and volleyball were the backdrop to my upbringing. My parents kept us physically active all of the time. Those memories of fun outside the home are at the top of my “favorite” memories, and they are where I grew bonds with some of my forever friends. Organized sports or activities teach us so much about teamwork, goal setting, camaraderie, trust, and endurance. It is here that participants have twenty plus friends at the ready, all working towards the same goal. As a teacher and former high schooler, I understand that sports and activities are the main reason many kids make the effort to come to school. I can’t ignore the wonderful benefits to being active, so I get my kids out there playing.
Like Kelly’s hometown, if you enjoyed athletics and didn’t do something each season, it was out of the norm. Now that I’m in a bigger city, our kids have the option of playing one sport year-round. I have friends that have their kids do this, and they love it. They are no less busy than those of us with kids in all three. If they are playing year-round, it’s usually because they are select athletes. My oldest has been approached multiple times with these opportunities, but I have never even considered it. I definitely question all of the decisions I make regarding extra-curriculars, but I want him and my other two kids to experience each sport or activity so they can make an informed decision to quit or take it to the next level in one area. There are many travel demands once a family chooses a select sport, and that would take me away from the other two kids. On the flip side, I can see why playing a sport at this level would be thrilling for all involved. So far, we are just league players.
We have had our older two children try the big three since they could throw a ball: football, basketball, and baseball. Those sports made sense to my husband and me, and our boys loved playing on a squad with their friends. Our neighborhood collection of kids have all played on the same teams since pre-school, and it has been fun. However, now that they are getting older, my sons and the neighbor kids are all finding their own paths. My oldest is 11, and he finally admitted to me that he just really does not enjoy basketball. This was hard to swallow, as it was one of my favorite sports growing up. I feel like he’s old enough to make this decision, and I’m fine not throwing 100 dollars towards an entry fee that will only cause him unhappiness, but it does feel weird taking a season off. I have to remind myself that this is his life. He has also entered a new school with new opportunities. Band, football, and baseball have him busy enough, plus he’s adding confirmation classes, robotics club, as well as some leadership clubs to his middle school resume. Had my son not taken out basketball, these other options would not be available, and I love that he’s learning time management.
My middle kiddo is still hanging tough with the big three, and I think that will be okay as he is still in elementary. When he gets to middle school, he can decide which activities are more work than fun. As I type this, I still wonder if that’s the right way to go; I am that kind of mother. I worry how each choice will affect them. Ah the stress of molding little lives.
In 2011, a daughter rocked our world, and there are so many activities that she can be involved in that are different from what we have been used to. She’s starting some volleyball this year (a version of it that isn’t too intense). She’s played t-ball, gone to swimming lessons, and attended violin in the past. We are considering Girl Scouts next. My intent for her is the same as the boys: try to get her exposure to the fun in life, with a sprinkle of rigor and problem solving.
Extra-curriculars have really affected our lives, but my husband and I are still in control. I feel like keeping my kids involved and active is a great way to prepare them for life. They have to make tough choices as adults, and this can help them do that. It is a tiny avenue of adolescent decision-making, and I want to support them in it. I am fully aware how these opportunities can completely take over life, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks. As parents, we need to find the cocktail of academics and activities that feels right for our families. No matter what, our children need us to support them in their choices and cheer them on in their endeavors. That’s what I remember from growing up, and I hope that’s what my kids remember as well. I am their biggest cheerleader, and I sure do love my team of players! When do you let your kids make their own choices involving sports and activities? Send us an email at email@example.com.