Today I had a few errands to run in town, so after the Sunday morning routine I packed up the car and took off. I needed to mail bills, run Jacob's soccer registration over to the local sporting good's store, and hit the bookstore for some writing time (which is where I sit now, a cup of black coffee steaming next to me and a hot sandwhich lying it's pretty little cheesey head off to me and telling me it's only a few Weight Watcher's points as opposed to the ten or twelve I suspect the traitor to be).
I was on the phone with Sarah when I neared the sporting goods store for the soccer registration. We are newbies as a soccer family, and Jacob has only done micro-soccer once before. It was in the fall, and we registered by phone. To say we're not aggressive with the sports indoctrination at our home would be a huge understatement. We don't start kicking/throwing/catching balls when the kids are crawling. We play with the kids, but it's more in the form of the sporadic bout of freeze tag out back, or a family hike, or a race throught the grocery store to get ingredients for dinner before we all collapse from low blood sugar. I loathe the sound of professional sports on television, and I've been known to get overly irritated when Bob uses a sport's metaphor (Jen, we went in to shake some fruit from the trees, threw the long bomb/hail Mary/full court pass and we scored).
As I neared the parking lot, I slowed down. "Sarah, I'm gonna have to go. The parking lot is completely packed, and people are parking across the street. This is crazy - what, are they having a huge sale or something?" As I said this, I saw that the people streaming in were, in fact, holding the same canary yellow registration forms that I had with me, my check for the playing fee neatly paperclipped to the top. These were other soccer parents. And from the looks of it, there was a run on the bank and they were literally shoving to get into the store. Right before I hung up with Sarah the blaring of a horn cut us off - people were vying for good spaces so they could rush in with their kids. I actually saw a car without the proper tags pull into the handicapped space and a frazzled looking mom leap out, crumpled form in hand. I described the frenzied scene to Sarah, who advised me to just turn around and leave. "He's not even six, Jen. Just do it next year."
I almost heeded her advice. But this semester I have pulled Chloe and Maddie from their usual litany of afterschool activities so that we might take a moment to catch our breath. I am all for kids having extracurricular activities - in fact, the older they get, the more important I believe they become. If you're a busy teenager, maybe you won't have as much time to get knocked up, on drugs, or shoplift. But my kids are still young. And I want them to learn to enjoy an afternoon after school without feeling like they're being hurdled out of a cannon to their varying activities. And, it's saving me a ton of money. Maybe they'll daydream a little more, ride their bikes after homework, and read some of the great books they have.
Meanwhile, Jacob has endured being dragged to the dance/gymnastics/ice-skating/horse riding festival for his sisters, and I wanted to infuse some more testosterone in our routine. So I decided to sign him up for soccer again. He loved it, it's cheap, and I can't wait to spend some time outside this Spring.
But I wasn't prepared for this. The parents, the competition, the caring so much. Do any of these people believe their kids are going to play professional soccer someday? Most likely, only a couple will even play in college - so why the hysteria?
I stood in line with parents dragging whiney children. I listened to moms complain about how they didn't have the time to take their Sunday yoga class with Ken because of the game schedules...not to mention the game/practice schedules for the child's other activities, plus the same for any other siblings. I listened to moms bitterly recount their involvement in their children's school and how they battled their husbands to not add soccer to the list this spring. "Well, I lost that one. So look who's here, in line, while he stays at home and watches t.v." is what I overheard.
I listened to moms (and joined in for this one) talk about how strapped they were financially after paying the fees and costs associated with all of these activities. I told the group around me that I had my girls doing nothing but school this semester.
It was met with initial silence.
"Nothing. But they go to a great school, and get to do things like ski, go to California, and participate in plays. So it's not like they'll be bored. Although nothing is wrong with a little boredom, I guess. Stimulates the imagination, you know?"
They didn't. They asked me how old the girls were. They cautioned me that if they resumed dance, they would be placed at lower levels next year.
Hmmm. So what? Do I think that my kids are going to be professional dancers, sports players, musicians, or equestrians? Probably not. None of my kids are prodigies. They're all bright, to varying degrees, but none of them are likely to even score an academic scholarship with the competition out there. So why should I kill myself? And them?
A dad I know in town, a doctor, said something recently at an event with such wistfulness it really stayed with me. He said when he was a kid, he went to school then went home. Period. He had friends, he played, and he enjoyed his childhood. Now, he has a large family and all of his children are in hours and hours of activities each week. They hire nannies to help with all the driving.
It got me thinking. I hope it does for you, too.