I have to admit, this is a difficult topic for me.
At a certain point in the past year or so, recreative activities for our older daughters began to change. More serious competitive elements arose, schedules became more time-intensive, and it seemed there was always a want for more time for them to be “getting better” at their hobby of choice.
I am a mama bear and the fiercest kind when it comes to preserving our daughters’ childhood. I take heed to my maternal gut when supporting our girls in making decisions, especially when it concerns their time to simply be kids. And, as hard as it is for me to accept that we have two budding tweens in our four-pack, I work to stand by their side and support their unique motivations going forward as young women. I try to get out-of-the-way as much as I can so they can take the strides they want in this wide world on their own, without me being the beacon. I have been challenged by this too many times to count and work at letting go a little more each day.
So even though I am an activist for preservation of childhood, I am an equal activist for independence, strength and drive as children find their way through life’s many twists and turns.
Nothing has ever resonated for me on why we push so hard and ask so much of kids and their families as they progress in their individual interests. Time, money, driving, out-of-town competitions, hotels etc, for what?! And why does it seem to infiltrate children’s worlds at such a young age? It’s not just soccer or gymnastics or swimming, it’s embedded, deeply embedded in so many things available for kids.
It makes me wonder, what kind of culture do we live in that supports children being pushed to their limits and disenchants them from
the very activities they once loved?And what happens to those family meals and that after-school time that can be for neighborly play and backyard shenanigans?
I’m not against scheduled activities. I’m just not for dividing up families because of it. I’m not against hard-work and commitment. I’m just not for wearing kids down. I’m not against letting kids explore new things. I’m just not for telling our kids they should find something they are “good at” or else move on to something else.
If we steer this direction in our parenting efforts, than we are teaching our children that their worth is attached to what they do. This, is fundamentally what I am NOT for.
These things, like drawstring pants simply don’t work for me. No matter how they sit, hips, waist, rib-cage, they just look and feel wrong. It is exactly like our cultures’ obsession with activity-based-saturation for our kids. Nothing about this works!! At least for me. And my mom pants.
I have drunk the cool-aide of what follows and so, the afternoon hustle is a familiar character to me. The snack send-off and the school check-in happen simultaneously as the child is picked-up and dropped-off before even going home to rest and recalibrate.
One day a week, I do the after-school hustle. Taking one of our daughters’ and her friends to gymnastics directly from school. I try to make it a sweet encounter of time in-between. Hosting a tailgate party in our minivan with a simple snack or getting a free kids cookie at our local health food store. But it’s tricky. I’m just saying “Hello!” and “How are you?”, and then I’m asking, “Do you have what you need for practice? Did you finish homework? Are you set to go?” I’m tasking, not nurturing and I’m making sure they are tasking too.
And no matter how I dial it, I see in myself and in the culture around me, that parenting has become a good deal of tasking and not enough nurturing. And this, this makes me so sad.
So why don’t we just let them
play??!! Why don’t we let recreative interests be just that? Do we think beginning at age nine or ten or earlier, our children are finding their passions that will carry them for life? Ha! Maybe, maybe not. I hope our kids will forever find new passions and interests as their life unfolds, adding to the package of joy in experiencing hard work and effort in new and sustaining hobbies. And if we believe so strongly they “should know” what they want to pursue for years to come, wouldn’t it be nice if they enjoyed it along the way?! To counter, they may not want to do this for life or even for more than a season, so then why do we insist they must try everything else out to find something to “occupy their time?”
I don’t have any answers. I usually write about topics I feel really resolved about. But not in this case.
In photography, especially with film, many of the images I used to capture were over-exposed. They were so bright with too much washed out light I couldn’t see the photograph for what it was intended. I would miss the beautiful simplicity of the shapes and lines and the subject itself.
If we shine spotlights on our kids and their achievements at these crazy high expectations and over-loaded schedules, we miss what is intended too. We miss the beautiful simplicity of our children and their intuitive ability to live joyfully, playfully, uninhibited.
Sometimes, we don’t know what will work better. We just know that something isn’t working for us right now. I’m at peace with that.
I said goodbye to my drawstring pants this week. I also said goodbye to an insistent future of over-exposed, pressure-filled ways of raising our girls.
#overexposed #mompants #notdrinkingthecoolaideanymore #lessismore #childhoodisshort #simplicity #parentingisagift
8 thoughts on “Over-Exposed”
Brave and beautiful are these words Anna. I so enjoy your reflections and marvel at how you do it all with such grace,
I share your blog sentiment and have embraced the Slow Movement this time around. Partially because i did the 3 sport athlete “tasking” thing, raising my oldest son, and partially because Cash has sensory challenges that call for presence and compassion. His days are hard in the school environment as he defensively navigates through the over and underwhelm of programming.
When he finally gets home he really needs his freedom and time to sort the day out. To just relax.
It is hard sometimes to feel apart from the flow of community doings. And i too can wonder if we are offering enough to keep pace. But cramming the days just left no room to really know each other or develop from the inside out. And thats where inspiration lives!
Cash is a turtle, and we live in a rabbits world. So thanks to him we find a lot of days at ease, with the elements and in the now inspiration. And it feels really good.
Glad you are enjoying it too❤
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Anne, it is such a gift for me to read your thoughts. As much as “activities” and “hobbies” our kids try are new oppportunities and really “extras”, it’s become so interesting to me to watch these things take on a life of their own and restrict parents ans families from having unscheduled, flow time. Reading about your son, makes me aware just how depthful your connection as a parent to your children is. This is brave. This is strong. This is beautiful. How lucky they are. Maybe you hit the nail on the head, Anne. Maybe, as long as we have presence and connection as we navigate activities and sports with our children we can allow both worlds to thrive and our children as well as ourselves, can feel nourished too. Much love and gratitude. Xo
I absolutely love your thought provoking insights on this. Too many times as I raised my 2 children, I wondered why our culture has become so “intense”. I grew up playing in the outdoors with lots of time to explore, create and play. And plenty of work on the farm too. Now, I see too many children stressed and unable to appreciate the beauty that surrounds them. Why is there an insistence on so much for those so young? You’re question really reasonates with me.
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Lisa, thank you for sharing your insights. A childhood on a farm?! That’s beautiful and with so many lessons of physical strength and loyalty learned I am sure. I love sharing heart-felt topics with other parents.
I really loved (as I do them all) your recent post Over-exposed. All my boys want to do is surf – no sports (yet Z soon to come tho) and I’ve felt this crushing weight of guilt for not having their afternoons packed with anything but surfing. But maybe that’s OK. Surfing is what they love to do. Thank you!
Thank you. If your boys love surf, that’s amazing! And if they change and decide on something else to try in the future that’s amazing too! I guess we just all need to know where our family boundaries lie with recreative interests. Above all, keep on the good mom-work. Xoox
I look back now at all the time Milana spent on basketball and now it seems silly. Flying all over the United States, hotels,etc. and she was basically an only child by then I didn’t have the other three to worry about like you do now. In one game her “careeer” was over. Puts things in perspective. You’re a great mom making great choices. Miss you!!
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Laurie, we miss you too!!! I really appreciated reading your input. Milana has received an incredible foundation for any sport in her future and lucky for her, has your support no matter whAt!!