Friday, August 9, 2013

Beware Kids' Activities!

I'm leery of kids' activities.  Let me start there.

Lately, I've been swimming a lot, and I see very out-of-shape parents sitting passively by the side of the pool, watching their kids get exercise.  I'll admit, that bugs me.

It bugs me because so many kids' activities are unnecessarily segregationist.  Kids get on a sports team (or in a drama club, or in an orchestra) with other people almost exactly the same age, and I know that too much of that is a bad thing for our kids.  I worry that constantly sticking kids in age-restricted sports and clubs tamps down their maturity --- much as having 18-year-old college students live together in dorms encourages behavior that few 30-year-olds would ever tolerate.  They spend their time trying to live up to the coolness of someone a year or two older than them, getting trophies for being the fastest 13-year-old runner or the most consistent 10-year-old dancer, without getting to see or work with the even faster 18-year-old runners or the even more experienced 24-year-old dancers.  It tamps down the kids' maturity.

An alternative is to find things to do together, when possible.  So my husband takes all our kids to bike races, where they each race in their own age category, but the boys get to see how adult racers handle themselves, too.  Or we all do a 5k road race together, as a family, and compare notes afterwords with the 20-year-old winner of the race and with a 70-year-old runner who almost (but not quite) beat out N-son.  Or, (many years ago, when my daughter was still at home), we hired a good friend to come over to our home to teach "Family Dance lessons", and all of us, from age 2 to age 50, learned the swing and other snazzy dances in our garage.  (A dozen years later, N-son can still do parts of the dance we learned to Queen's "We will Rock you").  If we weren't riding bikes together Sunday afternoons, we could join the family-friendly intergenerational ultimate frisbee game in the park.

Still, kids' activities are a part of my kids' lives.  N-son takes drum lessons, and I'm hoping he'll soon join the school jazz band.  J-son runs track and cross-country with his middle school.  Both of them are part of an after-school squash program (that I love because it adds a tutoring component, teaming the squash kids up with college volunteers and thereby ratcheting up the age-mix.)  And this year, both of them want to join the football team.  That's a lot for kids just barely in their teens.  And I let them try to do it all, just like their mom and dad go a bit nutso on the sports side.

Which leads me to the other thing that makes me leery of kids' activities:  they're not designed with a frugal lifestyle in mind.  Latest example: three days this week, J-son's cross country practice started in one location (5 miles from our home) and ended two hours later in another location (3 miles from our home).   This completely rules out riding bikes to practice, so -- in spite of my "no car" hopes -- I've put fifty miles on the Prius this week, just so my son could run 12 miles.  Crazy.  Fortunately, this schedule is one-week-only.

[Also, J-son's feet grew from a size 6 to a size 9.5 this year.  No kidding!  My stash of shoes-to-grow-into didn't get quite that big, and all the so-called-thrift stores were sole-less, so when his coach said he needed a pair of running shoes, I went to a Real Store, where he got fitted with completely brand new $hoe$ . . . thereby quadrupling my clothing budget for the entire year.  sigh.]

All this is to say, I'm leery of kids' activities.  Let me end there.


  1. I know the feeling. We have to remind ourselves that this stage doesn't last forever and just press forward. Keep up the good work!

    1. Agreed. I think part of the advantage of doing the intergenerational thing is to remind our *kids* that this stage doesn't last forever . . . but that the sports (and theater and music and dance and such) CAN. - MM