Kids and activities: Finding the sweet spot

Proof that we do like being outdoors.  Disclaimer: Only three of these children are mine and all of them are much older now.

Proof that we do like being outdoors. Disclaimer: Only three of these children are mine and all of them are much older now.

I’m a big fan of the great outdoors. We’ve camped every summer for years, and I actually need to be out in the sunshine as much as possible to soak up vitamin D. But the current 100 degree heat wave reminds me how thankful I am that none of our kids ever had any great interest in sports that would force us to hang out on a scorching hot/freezing/muddy field or a smelly gym.

Oldest daughter gave softball a go during elementary school. When a teammate passed out from heat exhaustion on the diamond one day, that ended our daughter’s interest. No more softball. We did a lot of family bike riding when the kids were young. Then came a spill that led to a broken arm requiring two surgeries (it was shortly after the “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” movie came out, and her arm was a perfect reproduction of Harry’s post-Quidditch match boneless arm). No more bike riding for her.

Sister #2 enjoyed gymnastics every week for three years. But when she got good enough and old enough that her coaches were pushing her to join a competitive team, the fun ended for her. No more gymnastics.

More proof. This was taken shortly before a piece of concrete hiding in our fire pit exploded, narrowly missing The Boy's face (he's the one on the right). And yet we still like camping.

More proof. This was taken shortly before a piece of concrete hiding in our fire pit exploded, narrowly missing The Boy’s face (he’s the one on the right). And yet we still like camping.

The Boy spent most of his time on the t-ball diamond standing upside down, head between his legs, studying grass and bugs. No more t-ball. He tried figure skating in 4th grade, and loved it. Eventually, though, all the girls wanted him to compete in pairs skating with them. His coaches begged him to compete. Again, the thought of competition took all the fun out of it. No more figure skating.

In my work with families, I’ve seen many parents push kids to continue with a sport or an instrument or some other activity way past the time when the child found it enjoyable. Consequently I’ve seen a lot of miserable kids who feel like their parents don’t listen to them. I know there are differing schools of parenting thought about whether to allow a child to quit an activity. We always came down on the side of “why force it if it’s not your thing?”

So when our kids discovered they didn’t like something, we moved on. That’s what growing up is all about, right? Trying out new things to figure out who you are and where you’re headed? Our kids eventually found activities that set them on fire, at which they excelled. Once they found their “sweet spot,” we never had to force anyone to attend lessons, never had to remind anyone to practice. All three of them continue with these activities now that they’re grown, purely for love of it. Maybe something about our approach worked, at least for us.

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