As we move on to a new school year, I have been spending my free time researching sports, classes and extracurricular activities my kids will be doing this school year.
I am a former Sports Mom, think Stage Mom of after school, and this would be me. I hadn’t planned it this way. My mother never pushed my sisters and me to do sports. But my father was an outdoorsy type, and we did everything from track and skateboarding to racquetball and volleyball. And when my oldest son was around 16 months, I enrolled him in his first soccer class. It was adorable watching him, and his teammates figure out where exactly the ball was to go and why they couldn’t tackle or eat the netting.
Then it got serious. The kids got older, and there was more passion, practice time and all-around parent involvement required. After soccer, we did basketball, flag football and then gymnastics. My son excelled in gymnastics, and I started to think – Olympics. Gold! But he hated it. He felt he was being pushed too hard, and the truth is, he was. I kept pushing. But he was miserable, and he demanded a break or a break-up as I called it with what I thought was our one-on-one bonding time.
So last school year we took the year off. My youngest had recently been diagnosed with autism, so focusing on his needs was already proving to be quite time-consuming. And privately, I was becoming a bit unhinged with all that was on my plate. This move was the best thing we could have done as a family. We focused on the youngest, his therapies and getting him into a specialty school. My oldest still participated in his after-school activities, but as far as anything extra, we ceased it all, even the guitar lessons. Having this past year off also helped me get some perspective on time and how we spend it. This is the time while these kids are young; I needed to stop trying to be a super mom and chill out! Cherish the memories and let them have fun.
Now we’re back at it. We missed the practices, the running out the door early on Saturday mornings, even the snow days where I use to curse the weather as trudged through the snow. But the truth is these kids wake up at dawn. We might as well get out the door and be productive! And participating in a sport or extracurricular activities has enormous benefits. There were many Saturday mornings where I’d find my son on the Xbox, and we would spend the better part of the day arguing about being on the tablet. Participating in a sport or extracurricular activity helps our kids to learn to communicate better, to practice social skills and to come together with a group of kids in the same age group (some from different schools!) who learn to be part of a team. I am excited and nervous about going back to the running around and the evening practices. But I’m ready, and I have begun to mentally prepare myself to go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
A Few Tips I learned During My Hiatus:
When it Comes to After-School or Weekend Classes -What does your Child Want?
I never asked my son what he wanted to do. When one activity wasn’t his thing, we just moved onto the next. I never considered that maybe he didn’t like sports. He was excelling in after-school classes of theater and dance and yet I continued to put him in sports classes I felt if his friends are in these classes, shouldn’t he as well? During our year break, I stopped pushing, and I was surprised when he asked to play baseball this year. He has had a hand in the league we chose, committed to the time and days he will be practicing and agreed to the time we will be getting up for games. He is genuinely excited, which helps us feel united in having this be a great experience for us as a family.
Step Back If You Have Overscheduled Your Kids
If the classes, activities or weekend sports leave you or your family feeling like you’re losing it, step back. This doesn’t mean quit. Skip a game or two. Talk to the coach and let him or her know you’ll be missing a few classes. Take some time to ask why is this not enjoyable. It may be the wrong fit for your child? Perhaps they are in too many activities? Finish the class if you can, set new limits and work within the limitations you set up for your family when choosing the next set of classes and activities.
Ease Up During the Classes and Games
My husband was the assistant coach for my son’s soccer team, which put added pressure on my son. The games, especially if the team lost, could be intense. He was four. We need to lighten up as parents, and I am as guilty as the next. I found myself being quite competitive, but it’s not worth it unless you have a future NCAA player on your hands. Work on having a healthy sense of competitive balance, especially when it comes to sports, so your child sees you are happy, win or lose.
Know Your Bandwidth
Learning from past mistakes — I am scheduling classes and activities that are close to home. This is what works for us, as we are always crunched for time even on a Saturday. The baseball league my son will be joining is 10 minutes from our apartment. This will help when we have to run to practice or on those frigid mornings when we need to hurry to a weekend game. I also know parents in this league, which will help if I need someone to tag team when it comes to dropping off and picking up during practice.