The other day my friend reached out to me with a question — how many activities is too many activities for a six-year-old?
She was concerned that between soccer, gymnastics, and Girl Scouts, her daughter was enrolled in too many things. And honestly, I didn’t have an answer for her. Because you see, my recently turned six-year-old isn’t signed up for a single extracurricular activity.
We gave one halfhearted attempt to soccer the spring he was three-and-a-half. Despite a significant amount of encouragement from us, he never stepped one foot onto the field. He spent each and every one of the six games with his face borrowed against my leg, too timid to join the other kids in the game. I cajoled, I encouraged, I bribed. Nothing.
Needless to say we didn’t sign up again that year.
And then Covid hit and we chose to quarantine as strictly as possible. I was pregnant, with immunocompromised parents we saw daily, so it seemed the best course of action. And even once things got a little better and vaccines became available, we had a brand new baby in the house and chose to err on the side of safety. So again another year went by without signing up for sports or gymnastics, music lessons or Boy Scouts.
How many activities is too many, my friend asked.
Um, how many is too few?
The part of me that played competitive sports my whole life started to panic after staring down the barrel of her innocent question. Oh god. Maybe we’ve missed the window and enrolled our son in sports far too late. At this rate our six-year-old may be so behind he’ll never play collegiate ball. Because that’s what we all pray for, right? I mean, apart from wanting our kids to be happy, kindhearted and well-balanced, we’re also hoping for all-varsity, valedictorians, aren’t we?
Except I realized there’s one thing I want more than that. Well, not the happy, kindhearted part of course. But what I want, even more than kids with an exhaustive college resume full of activities, is time.
I selfishly don’t want to give up my time with them yet. My oldest started kindergarten this year and I’ll admit that we’re both struggling to adjust to the long hours. Before this year he went to preschool a mere two days a week, and we homeschooled from March 2020 to August 2021. I’m used to having him around. A lot. And while those Covid days were often very, very long, and I yearned for the time when my kids would return to school so I could have a small respite, I wasn’t ready for him to be away from me quite this much.
So I now jealously guard the time we have together. I enjoy our slow weekend mornings, and watching my three children play together uninterrupted. And after five hectic, stressful mornings a week trying to get everyone out the door before 8 AM to get him to school on time, I’m not eager to add anything else to our crazy lives. I dread the idea of rushing from kindergarten pick up to karate class. And I fight back the first whispers of panic at the idea of interrupting our blissful weekends spent together with baseball games or soccer tournaments.
I would do it if that’s what he wanted. I’d shove that panic deep, deep down and sign him up for anything and everything his heart desired. But when I timidly broached the subject with him following the anxiety induced meltdown my friend’s simple question triggered, he said ‘no thanks mom’, and went on his merry way.
The day will come when our children ask to join in various activities. And on that day I’ll dive in with both feet, ready with pom poms, orange slices and glitter strewn poster board signs. But today’s not that day. Today my kids choose playing in our backyard over playing on a basketball court. So I’ll soak in every moment I have of them. And the activities, well…they’ll be there when we’re ready for them.
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