Ah, kids and sports- who knew before becoming a parent they could become so all-consuming so early on?!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, though, it’s that there are flexible options to be found.
For example, in the spring we are all in with Little League– my second grader will have 90 minute practices twice a week along with a game every Saturday that will take up several hours.
Because I know this is coming, I like to keep a lighter schedule the rest of the year. That means we look for ways to expose the kids to new sports and activities in shorter, more manageable spurts.
My 6-year-old daughter does a gymnastics class once a week (no meets or performances involved), both kids have a 30-minute swim class at the same time on Saturdays, and at the end of this month my son will start a 6-week recreational basketball league that has a short practice immediately followed by a game once a week.
We’re managing to have family dinners six nights a week and it feels like a nice balance for us, especially knowing that will not be the case come spring, but I’m always interested to see how other families balance the sports issue in their home.
Here’s our Parenting Styles contributor (and mom of 4), Jessica with her take…
We have four kids, and between their school schedules and more than a few after-school activities, you could say we’re a little busy. We’re not that crazy about it, but I’m looking at it all laid out here and, well, it seems like a lot.
Our seven year old has gymnastics on Monday for ninety minutes, soccer practice on Thursday and a game on Saturday, and she fits in martial arts around that, usually once or twice a week for forty-five minutes.
Our nine year old has soccer practice on Monday, games on Saturday, and he’s in two different martial arts disciplines at the same school, which means he does ninety minutes there one to three times a week.
Our five year old is also in martial arts, and he goes when his brother and sister go, usually once or twice a week, for thirty minutes.
Now, in our defense, it sounds like more than it really is. It’s actually a manageable arrangement, mainly because I drop off the two oldest to do their thing, soccer is only seasonal, and martial arts is goal-oriented, so they kind of ebb and flow. Sometimes they’re really into it and want to go three days in a row, sometimes they’re fine with skipping a class or two.
But now we’re moving into uncharted territory – the allure of competitive sports.
Our oldest is quite the little soccer player, and he’s been invited to join more than one competitive team. What does this mean for him (and us, because he’s years away from driving)?
Practices three times a week – at least – and weekends spent traveling so that he can play in tournaments against competitive teams all over northern California. Also, practice jerseys, warm-up uniforms, away/home uniforms, gear bags, and I don’t even know what else.
And none of that is free, you dig?
As for our seven year old, she started gymnastics over the summer and has leapfrogged up a few divisions. Now she’s talking about “team” and how she can’t wait until she’s competing, all while my husband and I make faces at one another because a friend’s daughter is on a team and it’s nightmarishly expensive.
We told them both, “Hell to the no” and when they started whining, we said, “Talk to the hand.”
No, we were totally diplomatic and explained that these were activities that required lots of time and lots of money, and they had neither.
They pointed out that we could pay for it, but came around pretty fast when we told them that joining competitive teams at the wee ages of seven and nine means their lives boil down to their respective sport, school and sleeping. No more martial arts. No more free time. No more Tahoe weekends.
Their eyes got bigger, and we pressed on.
“You may as well give away that Kindle, buddy, because you’re going to so busy with practices and games and homework and school, you won’t have a spare second to even look at it.”
“G, if you’re committing to gymnastics at that level, you won’t have time to hang out with your friends. Ever.”
They figured out we were exaggerating, but I think we made our point.
And that point is, we’re not giving up weekends to cart our kids all over the place for soccer or gymnastics, and we sure as hell aren’t paying a small fortune for the privilege.
Kudos to the parents out there willing to make the sacrifice, but I’m not one of them. Even if we set aside the cost in terms of time and money, I’m not sure I see the value for my kids. It seems like a lot of pressure. And for what?
We’re not hoping for budding Olympians or athletic scholarships.
Right now, the point of their after-school activities is regular exercise, a lesson in setting and reaching goals and developing sweet new skills. Okay, okay, and it’s also because they go nuts when they can’t burn off that excess energy and making sure they have some way of tiring themselves out under someone else’s supervision helps me keep my sanity.
If they’re still banging on about competitive sports in a few years, maybe we’ll revisit the idea. But then again, maybe not. We have four kids, remember?