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Friday, February 19, 2010

Do you wish your child was an Olympian?

I love the Olympics.  I watch the personal stories and I am riveted.  The  excitement of competition never gets old.  I feel proud of our athletes and country.  I even cried today at this commercial.

I've been thinking about the reasons that we as mothers do what we feel compelled to do for our children.  We start them in school at 18 months.  Make sure they have swimming lessons.  And gymnastics.  And soccer.  And tennis.  Even if they don't feel like going. We agonize about our decisions and then wonder and worry about the effects of our choices.   Is it just a form of torture?

Why do we (or maybe just me) feel the need to push them?  Is it so they can start early in the competition of life?  Is it to build confidence and social skills?  Is it so we can live vicariously through them and give them every privledge which we didn't have?  Is it to make sure that they don't feel "left behind"?

Do you ever dream (okay, secretely) that your child excels in a sport and will be an olympian?  [PS my daughter was placed in ADVANCED 3 year old gymnastics and I imagined this.] Is that the goal?  Is anything short of that failure?

I don't necessarily have many (or any) answers to the above questions.  I just ask them.  To myself.  Constantly.  

I did recently enroll my 3 year old in tennis.  I thought for a minute that it was quite a bit early to start, but I was taking a league at the same time, and I thought she would enjoy playing near Mommy.  Needless to say I was beaming with pride as she followed the teachers directions, ran around the court and even picked up balls without me.  What a big girl.  And then my mind went wild.  What if she was good, no, great at tennis like I always wanted to be.  What if she serves like my husband, but has a great baseline game like I do.  She could go far.  She could win tournaments.  Travel around with a coach.  Win medals and feel proud.  

Or, she could just be good and have fun doing it.    Wouldn't that be enough?

Then I turn back to myself and focused on my game.  I had recently joined the gym.  I am playing in a league with other men and women of my skill level.  The game is competative and fun.  I think of my parents and am thankful that they pushed me to play.  I am glad that I had the experience of competative play without the pressure.  I am glad that I can pick up a racquet and rally with someone I don't know and make small talk.

And I realize that this is what I want for my children.


TammyO said...

One of my children has autism, so I'll just be tickled pink that she will be able to get through kindergarten and make at least one good friend, never mind being an Olympian.

MissSushi said...

I never wanted to fall into that sort of thing. Where the kids have every second of their time wrapped up in one event or another. Every second they aren't at school is designated to some sort of scheduled activity.. it's not for me. My kids will get to pick one activity if they want, though they don't have to, and that will be it. If they don't like it, they can drop it but i wont be playing musical activities. I think kids really need unstructured free time to use their imaginations and do whatever they want, within reason. aka not for 6 hours of video games.

starbucks said...

Once again, I couldn't agree more with you MissSushi (I always seem to do). I want her to pick a sport and hopefully learn to play an instrument. I won't let her drop the activities after a really short period, because I think you need to stick to things but if she really hates going, I won't make her.

We should go back to letting kids be kids. Unplanned playtime is actually more important then you'd think. They learn to entertain themselves and figure things out on their own. It might seem disorganized and maybe even waste of time for adults, but it is so important for them. Kids should not be stressed out by their schedule.

So, no. Never would I want my kid to become an Olympian. So much time is devoted that important things fall short. A lot of sports are also not very healthy when done professionally (ask my knees that are totally messed up from ballett).

amandachalynn said...

Star, your knees are messed up from ballet? For me it's my ankle. Funny how many ex ballerinas have long term injuries. I'll never let my kids do ballet. If my son were older, and he really loved his sport, I'd support him, and be proud he was doing what he loves. However, school comes first, training second. Kids under high school age shouldn't have that stress, and I too think that unstructured playtime is important.

starbucks said...

Yeah, Amanda, it got better over time but if I overdo the running I really feel them. It's like bone on bone. I loved doing ballet though and I kinda hope she will love dance as much as I did, but maybe only once a week would be enough.

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