The Unolympic Parent

Watching the Olympics last month made me think a lot about parenting. Who doesn't love the moment when someone wins a medal and immediately runs to their mom? What mom doesn't think, even for just a moment, about how amazing that must be for the mother watching her baby win glory, in front of the whole world?

I always love the back story montages full of grainy photographs of the athletes as wee babes strapped into skates and skis. It made me think about all the activities we could be pushing Z into right about now. Now that she's almost four, we could be enrolling her in soccer, basketball, ballet (done!), gymnastics, horseback riding (we live in BIG TIME horse country), t-ball, tennis, swimming, karate, etc. etc. etc. Kids her age are already learning an instrument, another language, underwater basketweaving I'M SO SURE.

I feel just a teeny bit of pressure and responsibility, as if this is the critical age for her to start something. At this age, we could suggest/cajole/bribe for her participation in any number of somethings. And I have the sense that if she doesn't start now or soon and wants to pick it up at the ripe old age of 8 or so, she'll be left behind.

As with most things in parenting, I'm struggling to find a balance. I want to expose her to many different things so that she can discover what really lights her up inside. I want her to be well-rounded and adventurous. I want her to feel prepared and capable, like she can jump into a playground game of.... anything.

I don't want her to get left behind, in anything.

But I also want her to have quiet days with lots of time for open-ended play. I want her to know that she doesn't have to perform or strive or win for our approval and love. I want her to discover things on her own, when she's interested and ready.

More than anything, I want her to have a relaxed childhood.

I have a feeling there are no Olympics in our future. And I'm so, so, SO fine with that.


Whimsy said...

Sounds like the perfect childhood to me.

Anonymous said...

Your posts so often mirror exactly what I am thinking too! I think there is a lot of pressure to 'go go go, do do do' and I remember my childhood being fun because of all the non-stuff I got to do!

Just started reading a book called Simplicity Parenting - I imagine its message is along those lines.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

I know. They showed a video of the US champion on skates at 3 doing a performance by herself in the middle of a rink. Were they lucky they found the sport she would love and excel at or did they choose her destiny for her causing years of therapy over her loss of a choice? Hard to know. I try to follow Mira. I expose her to stuff through books, etc and then follow her lead. And who knows, I bet they could still do archery or bobsled if you start later... so who knows...

Marie Green said...

We're basically non-joiners, so far, and I'm not worried about it. Our kids are allowed 1 activity at a time (over the summer this varies as things overlap), and I STILL feel like it's too much sometimes. Right now, all three are in gymnastics.

The thing is, at age 8 they are RIPE for learning those physical skills, and they are excited about it since it's not yet "boring" or "old news". One of my bff's signed up her 10 year old this year for first soccer and then basketball- for the FIRST TIME EVER- and the girl was the STAR of both teams.

Anyway, I understand the temptation. I'm just too lazy, which I think, as you said, will be good for the kids in the end.

Grateful Twin Mom said...

Sooooo with you on this. I could not care any less that other kids their age are already 1 or 2 levels beyond them in little league, soccer, etc. Our beans will learn to use their imaginations PLAYING, not being carted from activity to activity. Well said, mama!

Jenni said...

I had a similar moment while watching the Olympics, thinking how unbelievable proud those parents must feel seeing their baby achieve that kind of glory.

I don't think we'll have any Olympic glory here either, but I realized that my kids don't need to be Olympians or doctors or lawyers or meet any kind of societal marker of success. I'm already unbelievably proud.

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