My husband and I once made a promise that we were NOT going to become parents who crammed our children’s lives with tonnes of extra curricular activities, soccer, football, cricket, hockey, tennis, swimming, gymnastics, martial arts, music, languages, and extra tuition.
We enrolled them into ONE thing per year – and that was it.
Our plan was to… um, spend time with our kids instead??
I have to be honest… the ambitious TIGER PARENT in me found this to be very difficult.
I felt an ENORMOUS sense that I was STARVING my kids from new and important experiences. I felt that my children had so much potential and given the right environment (and lessons), they would be able to flourish, grow, and develop so much more. I felt that everyone around me had their kids in 2 or 3 or 4 extra curricular activities, and that my kids were going to be behind their peers and lack the advantage they need to succeed. I had serious FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out!
Yes, yes I know that spending time with my kids is important. But really, how many times do my kids have to follow me to the grocery store to buy apples? How many times do I have to push them on a swing? How many times do I have to explain things about the world to them – mundane things like how traffic lights work, what are the rules for wishing wells, what’s a credit card? Surely they must get bored of me and need some other kind of stimulation?? Surely kids need to be pushed and challenged so they can learn and excel?!
Oh god. For the last 10 years, I have been in a constant internal struggle about whether we were doing the right thing. I felt like I was just stumbling along and making things up as I go. I felt like a very mediocre parent. I felt that this “slower lifestyle” that we chose was just a lazy cop out. Did we take the easy way out?
Do they need more? Do they need less? We’ve made so many boring, long-term, conservative decisions – to live in a city where the rest of our family lives, to live in only one suburb, to not move the kids from school to school, to live in walking distance from our school and parks. No big overseas holidays, no sudden career changes, no over spending, no gaming consoles, no ipods – we are pretty strict. Perhaps too strict? Life has been quite boring. But in a good way. Stable, safe, secure.
I guess we wanted to keep life at a slow pace, with low stress and low tech.
But my, how things are starting to change.
Both my bigger kids have interests and hobbies now. One is almost in high school too! There are volunteer meetings to attend, excursion payments to arrange, health forms to fill out, sports uniforms to buy, fundraising activities to support, music concerts, presentation assemblies, parent orientations, parent and teacher meetings…
This weekend, I had to ferry my kids to 3 basketball games, and I stayed to watch 3 hours of basketball. (My husband had to work over the weekend). The first game was at 7:45am Saturday morning and the last game finished at 7pm on a Saturday night! All the way through the first game I was thinking – I HAVE SO MUCH WORK AND HOUSEWORK TO CATCH UP ON! WHY AM I DOING THIS? AFTER ALL WE TRIED TO CUT BACK, HOW DID PARENTHOOD END UP LIKE THIS?
So during the second game, I had to consciously put away my frustrations. I sat back and just tried to chill out and organise my thoughts. Why am I so stressed?
I realised that I’m so glad that we chose a “slower lifestyle” for their early years, because now life seems to be stepping up a notch or two now. And since I spent so much time with them as younger kids, I am quite happy to “let them go” and let them start exploring the world for themselves.
For my 11 and 9 year old, we’ve gone past all the intensive care stages with them (the newborn stage, the toddler stage, and the pre-primary stage). We’re at a stage where there’s a lot more guiding, supporting, creating positive environments, discussions, making clear rules and consequences (and sticking with the consequences, even though it hurts me more than it does them) and standing back. They’re learning about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, their peers, their society, the world, and how they fit into it all. It’s a stage that is actually really exciting and rewarding.
So when I look at my kids now, I feel they’re off to a good start.
Even though they can be a pain in the arse most times, my kids are actually pretty great. I’m so pleased and proud of how they are growing up. I really like them! And I feel privileged that I got to be their parent!
I guess we did something right, right??
By the end of the second hour of basketball, as I sat on the bench with basketballs rolling at my feet, with another hour of a basketball game ahead of me, life and parenthood didn’t feel all that bad after all.
If only I could go back 10 years and reassure myself of that we were doing the right thing!