Oh the joys of extra-curricular activities! Anyone else with kids feel like they’re rushing around like a headless chicken after school making sure their beloved off-spring get to their Yoga-For-Tots or Young Chefs class on time? It’s craziness! I’m trying to keep our after-school commitments under a tight rein but if you’re not careful, before you know it, your kid’s calendar looks much like that of an A-list celeb!
At the moment my kids play tennis, my son fences and my daughter takes a drama class. It’s enough to fill up the week and make me just a tad stressed at times! If I’m honest I’d rather just let them hang out at home, doing their homework and picking their nose but unfortunately parents are under a lot of pressure to enrich their children’s lives with sport and crafts these days.
There is a pletherer of after-school activities available, so whatever your child is interested in, chances are you can find a class for it. When you turn up at these places, the classes are usually well attended but I find myself wondering how many of the students would rather be kicking a ball around on their back yard, or pootling about on their bikes. And I have to wonder do they really need to be doing Chess Club and Fine Arts?
The other day, I took my son to his regular fencing class. Usually I enjoy a trip to Costco during his lesson, but last night, in an effort to resist the lure of a jumbo pack of kitchen towels, I decided to hang around and read a book. There were a few other parents there, some on their phones, some tapping way on Ipads and the others were watching. No hang on, they weren’t just watching, what they were actually doing was coaching their kids, yelling out instructions from the back of the room. Every time there was a water break these parents would go over and say things like: “You’re lifting your front foot to high” or “you’re not moving quickly enough.” As if it weren’t enough for their children to be taking guidance from the fencing coach, you know the person actually qualified to instruct in the method of fencing, they also had to endure negative criticism from their parents.
Then I felt uncomfortable wearing my Judging Hat because I’m sure I’ve done the exact same thing. I know I am sometimes the parent muttering at the back of the room. And I couldn’t help wondering, why don’t we just leave the kids alone to get it in their own time? Have we lost all faith in our childrens’ ability to grasp a new skill without parental badgering from the sidelines?
Growing up, my main interest was drama. I used to go down on the bus every Satruday and would spend three hours happily prancing around pretending to be a tree or working on a my solo pieces. My parents never came. Even when I practiced at home, my parents didn’t usually listen to me or give me instruction. When I ask my Mum about this and she usually says something along the lines of: “Well we just trusted you to get on with it!” Or “I had things to do!”
And I did…I just got on with it. I didn’t feel unloved or uncared for. I could always go to my parents for help but they certainly weren’t breathing down my neck. The result of this approach was that every time I did take part in a drama competition or my school exams, I was doing so as an invidual. I always knew my achievements, and my mistakes, were my own. As they should be.
I think that parents now are more insecure about their children than my parents generation (I include myself here). We push our kids at school, we push them at sport outside of school, we expect them to be accomplished public speakers. But by heaping the pressure on and holding their hands the whole time, we in fact disinfranchise our kids because we stop them from become true individuals. We sap out the enterpise and creativity from their souls because we send them the message that they can’t so it on their own and that there’s no place for failure.
It’s good to have hopes for your kids obviously, it’s natural to want them to do well but doesn’t it feel like we’re rushing them along? So much so, we’re not leaving them room for error. Shouldn’t we have more faith in their ablity to work it out themselves? To embrace their mistakes? We trying so hard to protect them from failing without realising that we are in turn depriving them of a vital life lesson. We need to ask ourselves why we are enrolling our kids into all these extra-curricular activites? Who is it for? What is it for? Shouldn’t we be teaching them that it’s ok sometimes to get up and have a go, and not win a trophy?
Now it’s the beginning of a New Year, a chance to re-evaluate. I’m in the process of assessing my own kids extra-cirruclar activities. At the moment they seem to be enjoying it and I’m coping with being a taxi to get them to various places. I drop off and pick up. I’m making an effort to be supportive without getting over-involved. For now, I feel I have it under control but to be fair that’s probably because my youngest son has yet to get sucked into the after-school mayhem.
Although I’m proud to say that he is rather good at picking his nose…and that’s without any guidance for me of course!😉