Our son is 9 years old and through Kindergarten and 1st grade he only had one activity during the school year that lasted only 8 weeks – Upward Basketball. The second half of 2nd grade he started piano lessons and did Upward Basketball again.
I know I had friends who thought I was an awful parent not signing him up for soccer and baseball when he was 3 years old. That's okay. We just didn't feel like we needed to be on the go for over half the week and somehow I think it might take the fun out of the game when your coach insists on a 2 hour practice for 4 year old baseball team.
We decided that when he could ask to play a sport and wanted to play then we would let him. So far he's only asked to play basketball. He does love it and is a great team player and his skills are improving over time. I have to say though I'm glad it only lasts for 8 weeks and only takes up just a bit over 2 hours a week. By the 7th week he's ready for it be over.
For third grade we did add in a couple more activities, but without the pressure. His school offered an afternoon French class for just 30 minutes one day a week after school and I want him to be exposed to foreign languages so I signed him up. At first he didn' want to do it, but he came out the first day smiling and laughing and had thoroughly enjoyed himself and is still loving it.
He's still taking piano and music is one thing I will always encourage him to do simply because I believe all children should have some sort of music education. I believe it helps academically as well. I do not however stress him out about it. I do make him practice, but we're not overbearing in it either. I don't make him sit at the piano practicing an hour each day, but he does have to play for 15 minutes 4 or 5 times a week. I want him to enjoy and not resent me for making him do it.
And just as basketball was ending he started art lessons. At one point during first grade he took art each week one afternoon after school and he loved it, but the teacher moved and we just never started back again. And he's been begging to take again. So he's now doing art lessons once a week and he loves it. He's always giddy with excitement when art lesson day arrives each week.
Here's the thing. We've tried very hard to find activities that we knew would enrich his education and that he would also enjoy and all without letting the activities take over our lives. He only spends 2 hours a week in his activities and about another hour each week practicing piano. And even during basketball it was only a bit over 4 hours a week.
All this to say, our son needs his time at home. When he's not getting enough time to decompress and spend enough time with us he begs to be at home. He says he needs his time to "play". And in that play I see his creativity and imagination overflow. He's happier and his behavior is better. His frustration is not manifesting itself in horrible behavior towards us, other adults and his friends and peers.
I'm not saying my way is the right way. I'm far from perfect and still have much to learn as a parent. Each family and child is different, but sometimes I wonder if the behavior of children that parents complain about and stress about might become better if they took the time to really listen to their child and slow down and let them just be and have some quiet time without the expectations and pressures their parents put on them.
Even as adults we need time to decompress and just "play". I always find that when I write (which is how I decompress) that I'm much more creative, patient and focused in all other aspects of my life.
I know as our son gets older he will ask to do more activities and that life will get busier and that's okay. I expect him to be more involved once he has entered his teen years. But as a child I want him to have the time to rest and play and grow without the stress and exhaustion of a busy life.
What about you? Have you found the busier you get the more stressful things become? Do you need time for yourself just to play and be still?