Our 10-year-old daughter was expected to be in five places at 7 p.m. on a recent Monday.
She was slated to be at a dance class, a 4-H club meeting, softball practice, community theater practice and operate the sound system for a school play.
Ah, those carefree days of childhood, when no one expects anything of you, right?
I feel a little sad that children’s time has become so structured. In a time we want them to explore the world, so often those explorations come in conflict with one another.
For most of the year, those activities don’t conflict. Then, in the late spring, everything from the year-round activities becomes more urgent as it wraps up. Adults in a child’s life says how important that activity is and how it can’t be missed.
What’s a child to do when multiple adults tells them they can’t miss something, when simple physics says they must miss something? What’s a parent to do in that situation?
That one day was an extreme example with five events, but we’ve had head-do-head conflicts before. Each time, we made our daughter choose. Sometimes it wasn’t the choice she wanted to make, either. As she neared her dance recital, missing those classes wasn’t an option, even if she might’ve preferred to be someplace else.
I’m torn as I think about this. I’ve coached sports before and led clubs. I absolutely understand as an organizer how much it slows down a child’s growth process in a sport or activity when they miss a session. You have so precious little time to teach them new things, and you don’t want to have to go back over it for one child.
I also understand something else: She’s 10. Shes exploring the world. She doesn’t know where her passions are just yet.
I’ll admit, I was a bit of a joiner in high school. My yearbook lists me participating in 15 activities, stretching over five lines of type. (Nowadays, my only activities are work and running my daughters to their events.) There were six of us at my high school whose activities stretched over five lines like that. Is it a bad thing to enjoy the variety of activities available to you in life?
I hear how so many high schools now don’t have enough players to field junior varsity teams in sports. Some high school clubs fold for “lack of interest.” We complain about kids who just want to sit around and play video games or watch videos. We talk about wanting well-rounded kids, while forcing them to just pick one or two activities.
I understand eventually we all have to make tough choices. You drop the things you’re less passionate about. That’s necessary as you get older.
Until then, I think we should encourage our children to be participants in the world, trying what interests them to help them find where they belong.