Overextended Children

by on August 15th, 2010
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I used to be an overachieving mother. Just ask my oldest children. By the time they were 7 or 8 they were already playing baseball, basketball and soccer, in season. They went to piano lessons, girl scouts, boy scouts and, back then, school. I couldn’t imagine not having my children participate in all of these things. In addition to sports, Lydia did Irish dancing – which is basically the Irish equivalent of Toddlers and Tiaras, but I didn’t know it then. I lived in my car. My younger children spent most of their time in car seats and I spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to pay for it all.

Then I had my next two children – Alex and Liam – homeschool all the time and they stopped wanting to be in sports. They started quitting activities and I let them. This was unheard of previously. My theory had always been to finish an activity or finish out a season. Then, one season, I was pregnant and sick all the time and someone wanted to quit something, so I said, “Sure.” And then all of a sudden, my kids weren’t in activities all of the time.

It was weird. My oldest son finished school and didn’t play basketball all winter long. We moved and my daughter didn’t want to play anything but soccer – and then she stopped playing that – tired of team politics and other things. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. Yes. I said it. I selfishly enjoyed my children’s activities because they gave ME a social life. Where would I talk to other grown-ups if not at basketball games and the meetings for things in which I enrolled my children?

I couldn’t imagine not packing everyone up for a basketball game in the middle of the winter.

And then all of a sudden, we were all home all the time. Together. At night, instead of rushing, rushing to a game or a practice or coordinating massive drop-offs and pick ups we were just home. People cooked things. And baked things. We had campfires in the backyard. Kids voluntarily came outside and helped me plant things in the garden. We sat around the TV and watched movies. We didn’t really have anything in particular to go and do.

The little kids weren’t constantly being dressed and redressed and woken up to go and get whoever who was done with whatever. So they got to play. And sleep. And be well-rested. And participate in other things – like playing with the big kids out in the yard. I watched with awe as 18-year-old Matt picked up a ball and taught then 5-year-old Jack how to play catch.

Occasionally someone went to something. Matt volunteered for a while at a political office – so I drove him when the weather was too bad to ride a bike. Alex takes an Aikido class once a week. We go to the library once a week. We attend an occasional homeschooler field trip. Except for trips to the store, though, we just kind of hang here and do things around the house. I have a massive amount of seedlings growing, new sled dogs to attend to, chickens on the way and a TON of home improvement projects.

Mostly, I like to watch the kids do things spontaneously rather than because it’s part of a pre-planned activity. How many silly crafts did my daughter make at Girl Scouts? Did Matthew do anything but sell popcorn at Cub Scouts? Yesterday it was warm out and the boys headed into the field and made snow sculptures – not snowmen – but sculptures with the warmer, wet snow. No “snow festival” required.

Sometimes they make forts or play “Horseland” or spend hours drawing or build something with spare wood or play video games together or whatever. As I write this, they are arguing while voluntarily cleaning the boys’ room. I had no input in that at all. That’s what they said they wanted to do today. Who am I to argue?

Meanwhile, I spent some time doing money-earning work, went outside to play with the dogs and sat with Jack and helped him read a new book.

It’s snowing now, not sure what I’ll do with the rest of the day. Go for a walk maybe and do some more money work. It’s nice to know, though, that we have the freedom to do that. As for my social life? Well, it turns out that it’s better than ever – and I don’t have to leave the house!

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