Let Them Be Kids…

It’s happening again: the abundance of cute kid baseball pictures, social media posts about kids’ home run at-bats, and after- game ice cream shop visits.

Here is the reason why our 4 year old does not play an organized sport: We are selfish parents.

We enjoy our disorganized and leisurely evenings. It won’t be long before we are encouraging our kids to try various recreationional activities, shuffling them around, leaving straight form work and not returning home until after dark.

For now we are enjoying being home. Our children are growing up so fast it’s insane to me they are no longer babies.

We believe it’s particularly valuable for kids to explore and perhaps even become focused on a particular interest, whether that is art or music lessons, karate, little league or dance.

There is also merit in putting off the structured activities and rather gardening with your kids, doing crafts, or playing silly make believe games.

It’s valuable they try different avenues in life and learn flexibility. We will always have them finish what they start even if not enjoying it- we will power through it: teaching the valuable lesson of starting what you finish. 

 However, we will also wish to empower our children to make their own decisions about what they enjoy doing in their free time. Not what we want to do- what they want to do.

Minus wrestling, I think fungus on mats and simply cannot handle it.

They will never be forced to continue an activity they are not enjoying. Some may say we aren’t teaching our children “grit” or “perseverance,”  but I personally believe we will be teaching them to chase their dreams and to become well rounded individuals.

As a former athlete, I completely agree with the social lesson that playing on a team teaches. It is possible to make excellent grades even with a hectic year-round training and sports schedule. It is possible (not for me, but for some) to obtain a scholarship to a school for your talent.

It is also highly possible that they will get burnt out, sick of being identified solely as “the soccer player” or the “straight-A athlete- student.” Tired of evening bus rides home cramming for a big test tomorrow, showering at 10pm, and waking up at 6am for it all to start the next day. I speak for myself of course.

Sound familiar? It sounds like a day in the life of an adult. The alarm rings, we shower, many of us go into an office where there is structure, expectations, and deadlines to meet. We eat when we can fit it in and we go home to shuffle our kids around town? 

At 4 years old do we need so much structure? I’m not saying a lack of it but so much?

No thank you. I was “this close” to enrolling our now 4 year old in little league last fall…. we never enrolled him.

We opted for on-site (during school hours) karate classes at his daycare. So when I picked him up, I could hear all about his lessons but we were able to go straight home to eat dinner, play, read books, take a walk around the block, rake leaves, bake cookies, watch movies, and snuggle before bed.   

I think you understand what I am getting at…Leisure. One on one family time. 

A relaxed evening, relaxed kids, and a relaxed mom and dad.  Pure selfish bliss.

Having two young children is tough- navigating this in a marriage and pivoting it against a 40 hour work week is even tougher.

Why are so many young families torturing themselves with so many after-school/work activities? I’m not presenting anything new here. I see articles about this all the time.

Perhaps I am justifying a “fear of judgment” from my parental peers that my kid will not be able to catch up to his peers athletically.  So I am justifying our family leisure time as somehow a better lifestyle for young children? I’m not even sure myself. I am more relaxed because of it though.

We are not better parents than anyone else.  My kitchen is probably equally as messy as #1 soccer mom’s kitchen. Some parents may live for the ball diamonds. This mom does not.

To be honest, at this point, our son would probably be the kid picking flowers or bugs in the outfield. 

I did not personally start playing league softball until 4th grade. I recall feeling behind but I caught up. I became a valued member of all the teams I played on with the help of a dad who was involved as a coach.

I got burnt out on softball by middle school and tried track a few years (this bod was not meant for running and I was a danger to all in the vicinity with the discus). I went on to try out for soccer my freshman year of high school and eventually became a leader on the Varsity team by my Sophomore through Senior years. Somewhere in there I took some art lessons too. I should have done more art lessons! 

The lessons I learned in biding my time properly, self- practice in the off season, goal setting,  and how to dedicate myself to a team  is invaluable as an adult. Even if I shunned it all right out of high school and traded it in for environmental rally’s and poetry courses.  I have long lasting memories of my time playing softball as a young child.

However, my time spent playing on the metal swing set in the backyard, playing spy games with the neighbor kids, pretending to be a captain on a ship with a plain cardboard box, or swimming at the pool with my mom and grandma are my happiest memories.  

I want that for my children. A forever memory to be formed from a lazy Wednesday evening in the backyard or a Saturday morning garage sale hunt for the perfect toy.

Trust me; I look forward to seeing my daughter in a gym leotard or karate jacket. In a few years.

I’m positive that she looks equally as precious covered head to toe in garden dirt.

I don’t judge the parents with their kids in early age sports. I surely am not jealous of their busy schedules. We are selfish parents. We are not willing to share our kids with coaches or other kids; we will, but not now, not this summer.  There is always next year.

I just don’t want to be a soccer mom quite yet.

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