Thoughts on the Underscheduled Child
I’m not sure how I’ve avoided the siren call of extracurricular activities for so long.
Perhaps it’s that my ears have been plugged with memories of my own overscheduled past. Karate, drama, violin, ballet, tennis. Every week day schlepped, albeit happily, to something else.
Or the fear of my plate overflowing, as I’m just barely managing my son’s once weekly hockey practices and games.
And art therapy.
Though, I’m not sure I would count therapy as an activity because then it would be a whole helluva lot cheaper. But hey, there is art involved.
Whatever the cause, the result is that my kids come home from school, do their homework and then play or read or create gigantic messes with glue and cut paper. They hover over gadgets and watch television too. Sometimes at the same time.
I don’t think about it much until the change of seasons, when kids in the neighborhood pack up early for playdates of soccer or softball, ballet lessons or gymnastics and mine are left, again, to their own devices.
Literally and figuratively.
There’s certainly never a dull moment in my home, with Lego castles in constant construction mode and Beanie Boo cardboard communes taking over half the playroom. My oldest is an amazing artist and writer, who’s always creating something, whether it’s a Manga book or kid’s wine out of red food coloring and water.
But now with my younger girls getting older, I think it’s fair they be offered the opportunity to try something beyond chalk drawing on the driveway and scooter races.
It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. I’ve signed them up for ballet and gymnastics. There were violin and piano lessons. Baseball and soccer. They all did plenty of camps last summer. Just ask my bank account.
But nothing ever seemed to grab and hold their interest.
And honestly, I was sick of the managing and scheduling and driving, even in small doses.
When I look back at my own experience as a kid, I realize now that the activities game me a good life, a better life than I had at home. They were my savior from what was a sad, difficult childhood. They gave me the reassurance, the praise, the support, the outlet that I was missing from my family.
I actually think it was healthier for me to be dancing for 8 hours a day or playing in an orchestra all weekend long than being at home with my parents.
But my kids, well, they’re content. Happy.
I’ll always continue to offer them the chance to try something new. I might even give them a little nudge in a one direction or another if I think they might thrive in it. And I’m more than happy to encourage them in whatever it is they might choose.
But maybe for now, at least, they’re getting what they need inside their home.