Recently, I overheard a fellow Frisco Mom say something surprising, and completely wonderful. When asked by a friend, “So what activities are your children going to be involved in this summer?” Her answer was refreshingly, “None. We’re just going to stay home, swim, play, and enjoy each other.”
WHAT?!?! You mean you don’t have your kids enrolled in 3 athletic camps, Vacation Bible School, swim lessons, a dance clinic, a reading club, and weekly story time at the Library? Your kids are just going to stay home and enjoy a schedule-less, alarm-less summer vacation?
And then I remembered… That’s exactly what my summers were like growing up. We were fortunate enough to have a swimming pool in the background for most of my young years. Between the pool, my bicycle, and my friends down the street, I stayed busy and rarely uttered the phrase “I’m bored.” (Consequently, I learned early on never to say that to my Mom, because the response was always to assign additional chores around the house.)
Now that I’m a parent, and living in this fast-paced, middle-to-upper class, dare-I-say-it COMPETITIVE suburban area, I feel that it’s a requirement to keep the kids constantly busy with activities, adopting the attitude that we must always be trying new things, stimulating them, and keeping them active. I would agree those are worthy goals to have for our children, but I wonder if we’re overdoing it during this precious season when our kids are so young?
My oldest daughter will soon complete first grade in Frisco ISD. Most of her peers are involved in at least one after-school or weekend activity. Or five. It was tempting to follow their lead and enroll her in every opportunity for socialization and fun, either so she wouldn’t be left out, or for the potential positive effect on her development.
Then, I imagined the schedule…the pace…the tired child… I now feel that I made the right decision to keep school-year activities to a minimum. She is enrolled in one dance class, and one month of swimming lessons. The rest of the time she plays with her toys, her friends, and exercises her imagination.
But, summer is around the corner, and with it, we’ll have the luxury of more time, and therefore more opportunity to try new things. In addition to attending a fun camp offered by Frisco Parks and Recreation, we discussed enrolling my girls in soccer, gymnastics, and possibly piano lessons this summer. Yet, I have to pause and ask myself if we really need to consider such a wide variety of activities already at this age?
Shouldn’t she just enjoy being a free-spirited kid, and not have to constantly be in the car, running from one thing to another, hearing me gripe at her to “Hurry up! We have to leave in 5 minutes!” (I feel like I’m always rushing my kids to go places… “Hurry and get your shoes on! We have to GO!”)
I recognize there are two view-points to this topic. There’s a valid point to be made that the stay-at-home-parents of the world might lose their sanity if they are home too much this summer with potentially whiney, bored children. By enrolling your child in a variety of activities, you may steer them away from video games, TV, and general boredom. I think some kiddos actually need to be active and stimulated at a higher level than others. Summer is a great time to try new things, since kids have the time and energy for it.
But, summer is also a great time to relax! Whether it be during the school year or in the summer, I have to wonder if we would be less stressed-out Mommies and Daddies if we had a shorter list of places to be, and weren’t as ruled by our calendars?
Let’s not forget that in addition to the extra-curricular activities, there are about 50 school events each year that will also be on your calendar (Spirit Nights, Open House, teacher conferences, Book Fair, holiday parties, Field Day…the list goes on.) Our kids have their whole adolescent and adult lives to be ruled by a schedule. Perhaps summer break is a time to take a “break” from the busy-ness, and just chill out?
As with everything, each parent will do what they feel is best for their particular child…what works for their energy levels, interests, budget and time. Some families thrive on go, go, going all the time! While others are much healthier at a slower pace.
Remember the Mom I reference at the beginning of this article? My new “Hero Mom” who didn’t enroll her kids in ANYTHING this summer? I still admire her.
My kids have a couple of fun things planned, but we’ll spend the rest of the summer free time being, well…free. Free to go swimming on a whim, free to go to the Frisco Library, to bake cookies, play tennis or go on a picnic. Free to stay in our jammies for as long as we want to, free to go feed the ducks, to draw outside with chalk, or take an spontaneous excursion to the Sci-Tech Discovery Center. Or none of the above. Whatever we feel like doing!
The goal will be balance. At this point in my parenting journey, my children are little and not yet passionate about any one particular activity. I wonder what my revisions to this article will be in about 5-7 years, when they are older and have definite interests – complete with practices, recitals, and potential scholarships? I may have a completely different perspective during that season of my life, but meanwhile I’ll enjoy the journey.