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October 03, 2022

Where Every Family Matters

Don’t Force Kids Into Activities

Kids need plenty of time to dream and play and less time scuttling around in a car hurrying to get to some parent-enforced activity or other.

I have a framed quote that a friend gave me when I had my fourth baby. From time to time I’ve pondered it because I keep it near my bathroom mirror:

“Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded.”

It's a good thing to ponder. What does it mean? I think … it means to let your child be who and what he was created to be and NOT who and what you want him to be. That said … Sometimes soccer fields worry me. Do ALL of the kids hoofing it out to the fields with water jugs every Saturday tell their parents they want to play soccer when they’re 4? Or do their parents choose? You know the answer to that. We take the kids where WE want to take them, right? And certainly when they are little, it’s mom and dad who decide it’s time for an activity. We choose ballet because, well, all little girls should do ballet. We choose T-Ball. Because all little kids should try T-Ball. And soon enough our Saturday mornings are slammed with going here and going there and trying to grab a bite at Sonic on the fly. So soccer fields — the rush of parents every Saturday morning heading to the fields lugging water and fold-up chairs — worry me because they are so symbolic of the rat race we join. Only it's a kid race. But what would happen if you didn't satisfy that pressurized itch to join your child up and do what all the other parents are doing with their kids on Saturday mornings? What if you held out until your child actually started begging you for an activity (after he's learned for himself that there IS such an activity)? What if you waited for your child? Would you be faced with a little artist? Someone who wants to meet a horse face-to-face? A scientist who'd like to try experiments? A naturalist? Today a vast number of kids are playing travel sports year round, many parents on the hunt for those elusive scholarships. Sometimes kids put up a fight when it comes to having to go to soccer or baseball practice or some other sport or activity they're not REALLY into. They push back until mom or dad give them a piece of their mind and so the child is silenced into submission. Do it for the team we tell them! Everyone's counting on you! Really? After a long school day, after-school activities, homework and sports practice, kids don’t have much time left for that “dangerous” endeavor known as dreaming. They are fully immersed in following the trajectory of life that has been SET UP FOR THEM. They do not have time to discover themselves, and so they end up having to fall in. Sometimes … when days get long and hard and over-scheduled, I actually find myself praying for rain— as much for my sanity as for my kids.  Soccer's been canceled! Hooray! But is that right? I'd really love to see a new trend kick up. The trend for kids to do less, dream more, and for them to be given the freedom to follow their own true interests, not those of their parents. Unfolding your child means to watch and listen, not ignore and block out, or insist that ice hockey (for instance) is the only sport worth playing because that’s what YOU played. It means there is a unique individual here before you who has a chance to be who he was created to be if you will only get out of his way. Over-parenting is a no-no now. Letting a child explore and name his interests himself will hopefully become the new yes-yes. Keep this in mind as you look at your kids. Keep it in mind as you drive those hard after-school hours going here, there and everywhere. It doesn’t have to be this way. Unfold, don’t mold. You may even get to know who that child in your rear-view mirror really is.

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this publication and the mom of four amazing kids.