Kids Are Children Too
When my daughters were very young I was constantly trying to persuade them to jump rope. They hated it, but I kept buying ropes throughout the years hoping that eventually they would see the joy in it. I used to love to jump rope when I was a kid. It was one of my favorite activities along with bike riding, playing tag, and hopscotch. That was all true, but I also told my girls that I was an excellent student -- always did my homework, got good grades, was never late, etc. Then one day my youngest found my report card from high school. She brought it to me and with a surprised look on her face said: "Mom! You told me you were a great student! Look at your grades! And you were always absent or late!" Oops...
Throughout the years I continued to encourage them to join all kinds of activities. Unlike jumping rope though, these were activities that I had never done as a child, but it was "the thing to do" when my children were being raised. God-forbid your child wasn't involved in a sport, theater program, or playing an instrument (better if all three). My girls felt the pressure from their peers, teachers, and other adults, and I felt the pressure from society. To be a good parent meant to run your kids from activity to activity -- always expecting them to be the best (and I don't mean their personal best). My eldest daughter would have preferred to stay home and read books, but I was constantly trying to push her out of her comfort zone. Of course it was all in her best interest -- because this was what society expected. What rubbish.
One day I was talking to my friend on the phone and she said: "Suzie won't join anything except cheering, and I don't think cheering is a very good activity for her to have on her college application." I think the girls were in middle school at the time -- okay, to make it sound reasonable, let's say they were in high school. These types of conversations continued for years, and my eldest daughter would rarely join anything. The poor thing tried basketball one year, and she was traumatized by the experience. She was not an athlete by any means (oh the horror!), but she tried her best. The other kids and their parents weren't interested in her personal best -- they wanted to win -- and they let her know about it. Prior to that she tried softball, and the parents were so nasty that I stopped going to watch the games. I think about that now, and I wonder what the hell I was thinking. I didn't go because I couldn't handle it, but I expected my daughter to not only tolerate it, but to try to perform as these insane people expected her to.
One day I finally said to my friend: "Why the hell are we doing this to our kids? What did we do when we were in school?" We both laughed at the fact that we would never have joined any of the activities that our kids were involved in, and in fact, we were never involved in an activity at all. We turned out okay, right? My friend explained to me that it's a whole new world and the kids needed to do these things in order to succeed. She added: "There's a lot of competition out there, and they have to play the game." Of course I wanted my girls to succeed, so I continued to try to encourage them to get involved.
What a mixed up society we are. Why on God's good earth must children be more than anything except children? It is the one time in life when we are free to just be -- carefree, simple, relaxed -- no worries, no major responsibilities, and no pressures. When I think back to my childhood, I remember backyard carnivals, snowball fights, movie nights, games, bubble gum, and chocolate milk. I think of running, playing, and laughing. I recall Jerry Lewis, Abbot and Costello, and I Love Lucy. I remember trips to the mountains, the shore, the park, and the zoo. Thank God I was allowed to be a child. Then I was permitted to be a typical teenager. And finally I had to grow up and become an adult. And to think -- I did all of that without even one formal activity on my college application.
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