Slowing Down

Sometimes I love it when it storms.  Especially on Saturdays. Oh, I know that when that happens, there are crying brides all over the county who were counting on fairy-tale outdoor weddings, but consider an upside to Saturday rain– suddenly all the over-scheduled families have to slow down and shift gears, so to speak,  spend quality time at home.   Should we watch a movie? Play a game? Or (horrors) talk???  Because rainstorms mean youth soccer games are cancelled (or baseball, or any other outdoor youth sport).  For anyone that’s climbed aboard the youth sports train (at least in Texas), it normally dominates their weekend, and for a lot of families, picks up steam and gets faster and faster, until both Saturdays and Sundays are filled, and you’re playing on a “select” team and traveling to other states.  Church picnic? Can’t attend, we’ve got a soccer game.  Girl Scout troop heading to NASA? Can’t go, got a tournament.  Cousin getting married? Can’t be the flower girl, I’m the pitcher.  Many things that used to be a “normal” part of life get pushed aside.  A busy weekend becomes the norm, after having a busy week that involves practices for those teams, not to mention other activities like music lessons, karate, dance, …the list goes on and on.  And multiplies depending on the number of children you have.  Not to mention that school and homework are squeezed in there somewhere.  And not to mention rarely, if ever, getting to sit down at the table and eat dinner as a family– dinner is fast food in the car sandwiched between activities. 

So when rainstorms hit on a Saturday, it’s like God saying, “You’re not always in control, busy people…slow down, relax, and take a break for a change.”

I’d forgotten what weekends could be like until this past year, when our family cut back its schedule.  Though my 10-year-old had played soccer since she was 3 or 4, and my husband liked hanging with the soccer dads, I put my foot down.  She was getting into gymnastics whole-heartedly, increasing her classes to two nights a week for two hours each class, plus starting with a new piano teacher who I knew would be tougher, plus Girl Scouts on some Fridays and church choir on Sunday– soccer would mean practice during the week and a game every Saturday, with a game schedule that’s often not set until the last minute.  Since I would be the one driving her to soccer practice, I didn’t want to fit one more thing into my chauffeur schedule, let alone she needs breathing space as well.  In addition, my older daughter cut back her dance class schedule to make room for homework and new activities that came with being an 8th grader.  So at the beginning of this school year, suddenly we realized that we had something we hadn’t had in awhile– free Saturdays. Those family bike rides I mention in earlier posts could never have happened if we hadn’t cut back our schedule.  A trip to a bark park would have only been a line on a “To Do” list.  My husband and I get to attend Saturday morning exercise classes more often, and he definitely has had more time to work on the house and yard. 

I know that youth sports teach valuable lessons, but sometimes I wonder if the lessons are lost when those sports start to consume your life.  I know some third graders who’ve had games at 9 at night, on a school night.  How dare these coaches and organizations do that to families– but youth sports is a business, and the more teams they have and the more games they can schedule, the more money they make– and as in a lot of businesses, the ethics side takes a backseat.  So parents have the responsibility to put the brakes on things, and I know how hard it can be sometimes to resist your child’s wants.  My child badly wanted to play soccer this year (“all my friends are doing it!”), but kids will fill up their every waking minute with classes and activities if given free reign, and parents have to be the wise ones.  The uncool ones.  The ones who can look at the big picture (and the pocketbook) when their child can’t.  With so many activities to choose from, at some point in a kid’s development parents have to say, “In what do they have a natural talent? What should we be nurturing more?” rather than letting them do everything under the sun.  Or, if there’s no talents to focus in on yet, let them try different things– a couple at a time.  I once did a story on overscheduled kids for the Dallas Morning News, and remember in my research and interviews discovering parents whose mindset (and vision of  good parenting) was to have their kids involved in as many things as possible, “to keep them out of trouble”, as some said.  How helicopter and sick is that???  Like their kids can’t be creative enough to find safe fun on their own, to invent something, to write a story, to help around the house, to learn how to do laundry or cook.  Are parents so worried about the world’s vices that this is the only way to keep them safe? Yes, my teenager can often drive me crazy when she’s around the house and bored, but sometimes, as I always say, boredom can lead to creative things. Parents need to have the tools around the house to help make that happen, like art supplies or a kids’ cookbook, but those kinds of things cost a lot less than signing up for yet another activity.

All this is a long way of getting to a point I wanted to make– that kids staying home due to school closings from swine flu, and having all their extra-curricular activities cancelled, can be a positive thing– a lot like a Saturday rainstorm.  We’ve been out a total of 7 school days so far (we had yesterday and today added on). So far, in addition to stuff mentioned in an earlier post, Emmie and I have made an old-fashioned chocolate soda and pizza dough alphabet letters, both from scratch (which included a discussion of why soda fountains used to be at drugstores); she bought herself an acoustic guitar at Target with her own money and taught herself how to play a few songs; she worked on the Scout Weather Watch badge and I helped her learn to read a weather map and do some experiments, and we visited an old sheet music store so she could further teach herself guitar.  None of this is to brag, just to give parents ideas and encouragement.  I wish Emmie and I could do more– it’s rare having this kind of “down time”.  But gymnastics class is a “go” for this afternoon, and I just got an email from her teacher with homework attached, so it looks like our weekly routine may be getting “back to the old grindstone”.  Only in moderation, of course.

2 thoughts on “Slowing Down”

  1. Nice! Make sure Emmie’s piano teacher receives a copy of this one . . . she’ll thank you!

  2. I loved everything you wrote in your latest blog entry “Slowing Down.” Your words reminded me of a conversation I had with a parent just over a month ago. Here is an overview of the conversation and more thoughts from an “un-cool coach.”

    While at our last 14u club volleyball tournament of the year, a well intentioned “too cool” mom approached me. She asked; “Coach, what can my daughter be working on over the summer to prepare for her freshman volleyball season this fall?”

    My response was quick. “I think she should play softball (which she really wants to) and she should spend as much time as possible at the pool, riding her bike, and having fun with her friends as possible – just being a kid,” I offered.

    “What about her serve, her spike, her passing?” too cool asked.

    “She’ll be just fine,” I replied.

    Mom’s mouth opened wide enough I think I could have tossed a doughnut hole into it from 10 feet away without missing and my aim is less than good.

    This led to a philosophical conversation about the importance of kids being kids, allowing them the develop creative games (that might even include a volleyball) without adult interference, and coming into the gym in the fall excited about playing and learning volleyball rather than tired of being around the game.

    Unfortunately, I know just the opposite conversation occurs all too often. You know, here’s a drill for this, a suggestion for that. Have her spend a half-hour every other day doing…whatever. I used to be guilty of this “other” conversation.

    Funny thing, we’ve found the philosophy of “get away from the game for awhile” has resulted in kids working just as hard (or harder), kids being just as passionate (or more), our program being just as competitive (or more), and the level of respect from kids (and parents) is just as high (or higher).

    I could go on. Bottom line…it’s cool to be un-cool.


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