Oops! I did it again. I have officially signed my middle child up for not one, not two, but three sports this fall. My oldest has two and my youngest will make his long-awaited swimming and soccer debut! So that puts our family at a total of SEVEN for the fall.
AND I am the first person to say that kids are over-scheduled. We put way too much importance on youth sports these days, and the pressure that we put on kids to achieve what are very often OUR goals is simply problematic. Yet here I go again, loud and proud, fully knowing we will probably regret it all on September 15th.
But there is reasoning behind this madness… my kids really love sports! And they see their friends and make new ones! And we all love athletic gear! And they are even working hard! If you are reading this, you already know all of the beauty that can come from athletics (a sense of identity, increased self-esteem, how to be a teammate, more responsibility, improved health!). You all– sports can be great!!!
The thing is… the only way I can get my kids, myself and my marriage through this fall with any sense of sanity is if WE ALL adopt a pretty laid-back attitude and make peace with the chaos of our calendars.
You’ve been to three practices already this week and you don’t want to go to a fourth?
FINE. GO PLAY.
We’re a little late to practice because we had to drop your brother off somewhere first?
NO WORRIES. WE GOT THERE.
You’re gonna miss some games next week because your family is going out of town?
GREAT. HAVE A BLAST.
It just means that I, as I stare into the rearview mirror of my gray Honda Odyssey, have to be able to sit with the uncomfortable feeling of being late to a practice or a game, maybe not having the right soccer socks, and my kid’s not YET being 100% committed to a single team or sport. At the end of each week my sanity is more important to me and my family than striving for punctual perfection and failing.
Generally, I am way more relaxed with the younger kids than with the eleven-year-old (who is now learning about commitment to his teammates, responsibility and accountability, and working towards the personal goals that he wants to achieve). But just because all of the sports organizations around me have decided that kids have to specialize in a single sport by the time they are nine doesn’t mean that we have to adhere to their warped opinions. I think my kids will end up MORE invested because they will be able to choose their sports on their own timeline. They let me know when they are ready to commit.
I’m starting to think that taking our foot off the pedal, literally and figuratively, is the secret antidote to parenting our kids through this sports craze— us high-achievers sitting with the uncomfortable feelings of our kids not going all in when the rest of the world is going above and beyond to give their kids every advantage that they didn’t have.
I do all I can to be mindful and understand that there is privilege in these opportunities; that I am fortunate enough to be able to sign my kids up for these activities that also allow me to be able to work a little later in the afternoon. This is the sports journey of my kids, not me and it’s in the twists and turns that they learn and become who they are and discover more about what they want to be.
Good luck out there and buckle up. It’s going to be a fun fall for all of us, together.