Saturday, December 18, 2010

Extra-Curriculars


I had a pang of regret earlier this month. We were coming home from our church’s talent show, and all the other boys and girls Jada’s age performed something, and Jada had nothing to perform. Partly because I was unprepared, and partly because we don’t have her in anything: while other kids played songs from their piano lessons or showcased moves from dance class, we haven’t signed up Jada (or Aaron) for anything like that. No swimming or soccer, either. And, in that moment of dragging a crying little girl home, I wondered. What if she has hidden talents and we aren’t letting her find them? Aren’t these activities the very things that will help her with her confidence and her communications issues? Is she now old enough to realize all that she’s missing out on that everyone else she knows does on a regular basis?

Maybe we’ll start looking for something for Jada to do, like Chinese class or ice skating. But I kind of like that we haven’t overscheduled her. Her life and Aaron’s are pretty crazy as it is – up by 6, out by 8, home by 6, down by 7, and then their crazy dad drags them all over the place on the weekend. If anything, I kind of want to downsize their lives, and give them long pockets of time when they aren’t doing anything structured or scheduled. As a friend of mine once pointed out, kids these days don’t know how to be bored, and that’s a bad thing, because it was when we were bored as kids that we figured out fun stuff to do.

This recent article in the Wall Street Journal seems to support that observation, as it opines on today’s kids and how we can help them to be more creative. Type A parents that we all are, even this can be taken and run with in a typical manner: let’s throw flash cards and tutors and camps at our kids to juice up their creativity. For goodness’ sake, they’re not even in grade school and we’re already trying to build up their resumes.

It may not be that our kids can have the childhoods we had, when our parents told us during the summer to leave the house and don’t come home until dinner, and we used our bikes and our imaginations to go everywhere and do everything with the other kids in the neighborhood. But I hope that for my kids, we can find a balance between some early exposure to structured stuff on the one hand, and on the other hand lots of time to explore and even be bored. Aaron and Jada will eventually join the rat race; but they don’t need to be racing rats just yet, do they?
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