As parents, we hit the “our children are their own individuals” stage at different times.
Regardless of when, truly acknowledging and accepting this fact can be hard. It’s especially hard when these changes bring about extra arguments and disruptions to a harmonious home environment.
For our kids, the progression into highly opinionated people started far before the tween/teenage years. The smaller shifts away from what had been our norm – organization, tidiness, hairstyles, and clothing preferences – seemed easier. But accepting that our kids have no desire to participate in the same activities that brought so much joy and friendship into their dad and my lives took years to fully embrace.
Before we get too far down the “let kids be kids” road, let me say that we agree.
While we had no desire to force our passions, hobbies, and even regrets on our children, we do hope they find some opportunities to enrich their lives. It’s only natural to start in the places you know best. For my husband and me, extracurricular activities were a formidable part of our youth.
We gave it a solid effort. We were delighted (okay, I was delighted) when our firstborn showed interest in dance. I LOVED dance as a kid! This is going to be great, or so I thought.
Remember the days parents could peek in on class through the observation window?
I was ready to enjoy the quick, secret glances in on our little ballerina. That is, until I saw what was actually going on. There, in the back of the class was my child, hanging from the barre. We soon realized, once the tights were pulled up and the slippers on, she really had little interest or desire to actually dance. Chatting with her friends and finding out who could twirl the fastest without falling down, however, was a different story.
After many “you need to pay attention and listen to your instructor” conversations went south, prepping for class quickly became a fight. Many tears were shed and few pairs of tights survived.
Okay, so dance wasn’t “the thing” to win hearts. Why not try our hand at sports?
There are relatively numerous options in a community of our size: city, YMCA, private, school-based programs. At such a young age, it’s about sampling different types and having fun, right? What if it’s not? Well, it’s painful, that’s what it is.
Soccer? Nope, you could find our kiddo playing (maybe even rolling) in the grass on the opposite side of the field. Yep, that was our kid.
Baseball/Softball? For a hot minute, we thought we’d found our Golden Ticket. Initially, both kids seemed not only interested but excited, until we noticed our youngest eating grass in the outfield and playing in the sand instead of running bases. We gave it a rest and decided to come back in a few years.
Even then, after a few seasons, the lovely Iowa heat sealed the deal. Neither kiddo wanted any part of standing out in the hot sun for hours on end.
Choir, band, Donut Club– nothing seemed to pan out.
As our eldest entered middle school, a wider array of new options opened up. Relief flooded us as a genuine interest to try new things blossomed. FINALLY! There was hope to be found yet.
COVID-19, enter stage right. There goes that idea. Back to square one.
Despite the events of the last year, we’ve kept conversations going around the opportunities to “return to normal” whenever that happens. All interest in trying something new, even if fleeting, seems to be gone, for now.
Instead, we’re using yet another part of the challenges we’re all facing as a different life lesson: Find joy in your daily routines. Rather than put so much effort into trying to talk them into “activities,” we’ve shifted toward how they can keep their bodies moving, their minds challenged and their hearts happy.
So, even though it seems like my kids hate group activities, I’m not ready to officially throw in the towel. For today, it’s enough.
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