i was out with a couple of girlfriends the other night and we got to talking about kids' scheduling and activities. out of the three of us, i am the one who has a school-age child. i was telling them how i never expected marley's schedule to be as busy as it is. we're talking swimming, ice skating, soccer...there are two days out of the week that she does not have an after-school activity.
we are totally that family. you know. the middle- to upper-middle class suburban family you read about where the kids have a ton o' shit going on and no one is happy. the mom is bitter about having to drive everyone around to these activities; the kids are on overload at the sheer number of activities; and the stress level is through the roof. yup, we're headed full-steam in that direction...or are we?
one of my friends responded with a story about an over-worked, over-activity-ed, stressed-out mother who up and canceled all her kids activities. every last one. like in no activities at all. which made me think...no activities? what would that be like? it was never a question that my kids would participate in sports, learn how to do things like swim and skate, and maybe even play an instrument.
which harkens the question...what is it all for? is it worth it? are we imposing an over-scheduled schedule on our kids?
there is no question that there is a lot going on in our family. so far, i don't feel stressed about it. truth be told, i sometimes feel like i should complain about that part of my routine, but i actually don't feel very complain-y about it at all. i may be nuts here, but i actually like it.
from the kid side, let it be noted that there is no whining about swimming, skating or playing soccer. not yet anyway. we are still at an age where it is all exciting. the wonder of learning something new...i remember when i was teaching my daughter to ride a bike. the look on her face when she realized i wasn't holding her anymore and she was doing it all herself? i'll take a cup of that every morning, please. and thank you.
which kinda explains, i think, why i believe -- with every fiber of my being -- that extra-curricular activities are worthwhile. not everyone will agree, but this is my blog and i'll cry if i want to.
i grew up in a home where we always had stuff going on. we didn't sit around much. we played with neighborhood kids on certain days of the week, but overall, not much time hanging around the house. we were out. i always give my mother credit for spearheading all our activities because as a thai woman, she wasn't always familiar with the ins and outs of these mysterious things american kids did with their time when they weren't in school.
but she had vision.
she signed us up for swim team and when we showed up for the first meeting, we were rudely awakened when the coach threw us, head first, into the competitive sporting event of our lives -- a swim meet. talk about cold water on the face. i love the immigrant-ness of that story and my parents honestly thinking it was just a gathering of moms and dads and kids to talk about swimming and stuff.
i didn't even have a proper swim team swim suit. i wore a pink halter top swim suit with tiny flowers all over it. like i was headed to the beach. there is an old picture of me at that first meet, taking an awkward freestyle stroke with my head raised straight up to breathe (did not know how to turn my head to the side yet) and my hair matted down the sides and front of my head (hadn't discovered swim caps yet). i looked like i was drowning.
but i didn't.
as an adult, i feel like that aspect of my parents' parenting was really strong. i don't recall feeling stressed by the activities -- or volume of activities. they were fun (ok, fine, maybe some of them became a little less fun during the Sullen Period, circa '89-91). beyond the fun of a little girl learning all this cool new stuff is an adult woman who has a life that is continually enriched by the music, sports and dance opportunities her parents gave her. even the stuff i couldn't stand -- like thai summer school -- i am grateful for today.
i love that when my daughter took ballet, we practiced first, second, third position together (6). i loved watching her try her hand at thai dancing and talking about how important the curve of her hand is when performing (7,8,9). i love playing carmen (or chopsticks) on the keyboard for my kids and seeing their faces light up like i'm a superstar (8,9,10,11.12). i love that i can swim -- really well in fact -- anytime i want or need to. and when the stars are aligned, i can even be an iron girl (8,9,10,11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17). i love holding hands and skating with my daughter. those sunday afternoons going 'round and 'round the rink, both of us singing along to selena gomez blaring overhead? joy (9,10). i love playing tennis with my husband and yelling 'in your face!' when he misses a shot (10, 11, 12, 14, 13, 14).
all these moments are childhood gifts from my mother and father. they allow me, today, to enjoy the activity and adventure in life both as a mother and on my own. they also gave me a blueprint for one of the greatest gifts i hope to bestow upon my own children: the feeling -- that glorious feeling -- that they can.