Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Too Busy to Be a Kid

When is it my turn?

“Hey, why don’t we meet up at the park, have some coffee, and let the kids play this Saturday?”

“Can’t.  He has a soccer game.”

“That’s okay.  How about Sunday?”

“Sorry.  Rehearsal for a church play.”

“Okay.  How about one afternoon after school this week?”

“Not going to work.  There’s dance on Monday, soccer practice on Tuesday, Boy Scouts Wednesday, Soccer again on Thursday and Friday is sign up for baseball.”

“When does he have time to get any homework done?”

“Oh, he does that in the car to and from each event.  Then at night he practices piano and violin.  This kid is going to go far.”

That just sounds exhausting, and you may think that as a writer I took some creative license there and exaggerated a bit.  I didn’t.  I know families like this.  If you ever wanted to hang out with them you had to go see their kid’s game and even then you couldn’t have a conversation with them.  Most of the mealtimes were hot dogs in the bleachers swallowed around loud cheers to “knock it out of the park!”

“I can’t help it.  The kid is active.”

Too active, if you ask me.  When do they ever have time to just be a kid?  There’s no time to ride a bicycle or climb a tree.  Where are the games of Hide-and-Seek or Freeze Tag?  When do they simply get to play with their unstructured imaginations?

I’m all for children participating in sports, taking music lessons and dance, and even joining clubs such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.  All of these activities teach them valuable life lessons and can gain them the upper hand as they grow older.  However, if your child is busy every night with no time to enjoy the toys you spoiled them with or play with the neighborhood kids, then your child is just too busy.  I can understand joining one or two activities, but more than that may be doing more harm than good.  The phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” could very well become your child’s theme.

Our children are pushed to excel at a far younger age today than decades ago.  There are prekindergarten classes and pre-prekindergarten classes.  “We’re trying to give our child every advantage possible.”  I understand.  It’s a hard, dog eat dog eat another dog world and if our children are going to succeed they will need every possible advantage.  Yet, in the process of preparing them for adulthood, we can push them right out of their childhood.

Perhaps that’s why too many adults behave like little children now; they’re making up for lost time.  They feel they worked so hard as kids that they are entitled to sit on their backsides now and relax.

Or maybe the parent didn’t have the opportunities growing up that they can now force upon their children and thus relive their youth through their offspring.  Therefore, in order to get the most out of a few years they cram as much as possible into them.  They willingly zip from one activity to the next, pushing their kids to succeed and stay involved.  The children lose their childhood and the parents skip their adulthood.

As with everything in life, there needs to be balance.  Allow your child to try things, to participate and experiment, but also rein them in if it seems they are doing too much.  They may not even know that they are stretching themselves too thin.  Zac and Heather were this way when they were younger, sitting down only long enough to change socks and then they were off to the next activity.  They had to be forced to sit and be still before they wore themselves out.

Children may have more energy than us older type folks, but their batteries still need to recharge.  They need to relax, to play and get dirty without an umpire yelling, “Safe!”  They need time that isn’t mapped out in a Day Planner.

They need time to be kids.

* * * * *

Suggested Reading ~ Sexual Harassment in Schools
                                Growing Up or Just Growing Old


  1. I think that is over scheduling! I have met families like this as well. I would like the kiddo's take on his schedule. It is ok for the entire family to sit down on the couch an relax for an hour.