Monday, July 30, 2012

On keeping busy kids.

My kids have tried quite a bit of activities! Gymnastics, soccer, baseball, dance, piano, swimming, tennis, basketball and even theater have been in our list of classes they have tried or are currently involved.
Even before I had kids, I knew they would have to do some sort of sport and an instrument. My husband and I have made that a reality and I'm so glad we have the resources and have dedicated the time to foster their extra curricular activities.

So what do they do anyway?
We started with swimming lessons (a life skill really) , soccer, gymnastics, dance and martial arts. Now they do (throughout the year) - soccer, basketball, baseball, dance, swimming and piano. Not everything all at once of course (we are not THAT crazy!). Each activity has its own season. The only activity they do all year around is piano which never stops.
During the summer I've enrolled them in a theater camp - which was really fun and the kids enjoyed performing in a play at the end of the camp.

 {a bat - Aladdin play 2012}

{the girl in the yellow and purple is mine - she's the princess in Aladdin!}

Some people mention to me "Boy, you have those kids busy!" and recently I started thinking on why.
Why DO we keep our kids so busy?
Well, I guess it's because that's the way I grew up and now that I live in the suburbs, that sort of lends itself to this type of lifestyle. What I mean is that in these areas, there are a lot of places which are convenient, affordable and accommodating to all families with the activities.
Most kids around here do similar activities to what we do(or a flavor of what we do) and some families go even further and have them in quite more than we do (i.e. lacrosse, football on top of what I've mentioned above).
But I digress....why do WE keep ours so busy? Is it because we want them to be all star Olympians or champion dancers? No, that's not it. Most of the classes they do are at the rec (recreational) level so their environment is more of a nurturing environment rather than competitive.

I think I can list the following reasons why:
Health - mentally and physical health. I think when kids are moving and eating healthy they stay away from bad habits (video games, watching too much tv). Believe me, we don't deprive ours from video games or TV, but the extra curricular activities certainly gets the entire family moving. On Saturdays, if we don't have a basketball game to go to or a soccer game, then even the parents start to lounge a bit too much and don't get out of the house until 2 PM!

Confidence booster- I think this is key! Piano is a perfect example of success via failure. We don't call it that at all, but basically it is. They practice and the song sounds less than perfect (the kids get frustrated!) but then they keep on practicing and practicing and lo' and behold, when they can play a beautiful tune they think it is the easier thing ever! But it took a lot of work and a lot of patience to get to that point. Or a lot of "failures" to get to the "success" of playing a song to the best of their abilities. That is a HUGE lesson in my opinion, because their confidence level goes way up when they come to the realization of their journey.

{summer piano recital - 2012}

{summer piano recital - 2012}

Confidence booster goes with the rest of the activities too. Even though once you get into the competitive circles in sports, confidence can be shot, it's up to US (parents) to boost that morale up and get them to keep on playing and maintain their head on high. Of course, we must recognize when to stop something that they are just not enjoying and move on to something else or focus in other activities a bit more.

Bonding opportunities - You see, my husband LOVES to coach! He is a natural with kids. He started coaching soccer and now he coaches basketball for our kids. Since we do rec leagues, he's more than welcome to do so even with little experience in the sports. That's another opportunity for him to bond with his kids at a different level. He's coach on the court/field and there has to be some level of respect the kids need to convey. When they loose a game they all work on getting better and my husband uses loosing as an opportunity to always encourage them to get better. A certain drive sparks out of them to try again (and again and again). When they win, well - it's priceless!!

{Daddy congratulating his daughter on their latest tournament victory}

Strengthen friendships - We live in a suburb and we keep running into the same families which is great because the kids really start making friends! Their friendships get stronger as they do more and more activities together. It's so fun when friends play on the same team, but even more fun when we have to play against them - which makes for an interesting match!



Staying out of trouble - I wrestle with this one. Because part of me says, if they are playing soccer, baseball, basketball, etc, they are not roaming outside in the neighborhood getting into who knows what. But then there's the train of thought that kids should roam around the neighborhood by themselves and be kids! I do let mine go out but to be honest, I am always with them or they are with someone I trust (usually another parent). We ride our bikes, we go to the playground, we play outside quite a bit, but you won't see my kids roaming around by themselves with other kids. 
When I see a group like that around here, they are usually up to no good (because they are so bored). I don't need to go into the details of what I've seen kids do when there are no parental supervision and let me tell you, I live in an affluent neighborhood. So it's not that the kids are deprived from their needs (food, clothes and shelter). I'm not saying that if you let your kids roam around being kids is wrong, but I don't personally feel comfortable with it (not yet).

I know I'm not perfect and I don't have all the answers to parenting, but I'm doing these activities as trial and error and adjusting as we go along. 
For now, they are busy and learning new skills. Will they become professional pianist or soccer stars? I doubt it. But they will learn: 
Respect towards everybody (peer, coaches/teachers and opponents)
Working in a team
Success via failure
Staying healthy

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