16 Apr Let’s break for coffee and red rover
Oh man, that summer that my husband and I became sports parents was one for the books. We were sooooo excited that we…I mean my son, would make his debut as an athlete that we also signed my husband up to coach. When he first tried on his little Timbit jersey, I pretty much melted to the floor – I couldn’t handle the cuteness. Then it was time to play soccer….wait….what?? My son had about as much interest in the game of soccer at the age of 3.5 as any of my four kids do with eating anything green- zero.
We knew about 2 minutes in to the first practice that we just embarked in nothing more than an exhausting mistake. We may as well of thrown $100 into the wind than to a registration fee and now that my husband had volunteered to be “coach Daddy,” we were officially locked in for the next 10 weeks. Lets just say, you know when you are in public and your kids are having meltdowns and you are trying hard to maintain a look of composure, so much so that the muscles in your face almost hurt after? Yep, well John and I both left the soccer field each week with stiff cheeks and our son left with more energy than he had when we got there because he had just ‘rested’ in the grass for an hour. (Picture above was about the only smile we got all summer).
We learned. We were eager and excited to introduce our son to the world of sports and we just couldn’t wait to get started. Fast forward five years and things are much different in our house now. Four kids, two parents and a mini van has changed my perspectives. We just finished hockey season, where our two oldest kids had an enjoyable year which saw little to no rolling on the ground and- they had fun!!! That’s what we had been so excited for and it’s pretty awesome to watch your kids being active, being a teammate and enjoying it all at the same time. That being said, as soon as the rink door shut behind us in March, I was totally pumped and ready to peace out of a rink until October. Like a serious- peace out I’m going home to take a hot shower for three hours. Geez some of those rinks are cold!!! In all seriousness though- I loved watching my kids come off the ice with red cheeks and grins, sometimes it literally brought me to tears (motherhood did that to me), but what I love just as much, is watching my kids come inside the house in the evening with the same red cheeks and grins because they just took part in an intense game of hide and seek with the neighbours. It’s get muddy season.
As rookie as John and I still are as sports parents, I have had my eyes opened to a whole other issue since we entered the world of sports with our kids. This year-round pull on parents to run their child to everything and everywhere- it’s intense. It starts early and it doesn’t seem to go away. There is tons of research how this can be hard on kids, but who I think it might hurt even more, is the parents. I see it all the time, stress deep rooted in the eyes of Moms and Dads who have let their child’s calendar dominate their lives and in turn let their own wellness take a back seat. It quickly takes a toll. Now I know there are some parents who love a jam-packed schedule and who can literally THRIVE off of it. They are like magicians who can navigate a busy schedule like nobody’s business. So to those parents, you have my applause. If both you and your kids are happy with it, read no further, you have found your formula. To the rest of you- here are my thoughts:
There is this intense pressure on parents today to keep up with the Jones’. One parent finds out what someone else’s kid is doing so they feel their kid should to. They can’t get behind??!! Now my intent of this article is NOT in any way to condone youth sports. I lived and breathed sports my entire life and there are few things I want more for my kids than to grow up with physical activity being a priority in their lives, but here’s the thing; I want my kids to grow up knowing how to be physically active outside of an organization. I want my kids to miss their sport in the off season and I want my kids to find joy in simplicity, like walks in the woods, 500 up, riding their bikes or swimming at the beach. Those are the activities that can last a lifetime. I also want to enjoy evenings where our whole family can be home for supper, where we can go to the beach at 7:00 pm if we feel like it, or go to a park and get ice cream.
Hockey season was busy, I don’t regret it and I’ll absolutely do it again as long as my kids want to play, but I’m not ashamed to say I’m freaking pumped its over. I needed a break from coordinating all the pick ups and drop offs and even more so from trying to keep my younger two kids from cannon balling off the bleachers. I’m totally fine with putting that out there. The past few weeks, our family of six has been home together almost every evening for supper and it’s been awesome. The other day when all of us sat around the table together, my four year old piped up “look, we are having a family sit!!!!!” That really resonated with me. Those evenings will not be here forever and lately I have grown fiercely protective of that time. My boundaries are up. I hope to have years of shuttling my kids to activities they love to do but I also know I want to relish in the moments when I can turn it off. Parenting is hard on a good day, and as much as a simple life can be hard to find with four kids, I still strive for moments of it.
I know there are so many parents around me who need a long for a break but they think clearing their schedule will mean they are depriving their children. I’ve heard it many times, “my kids just love their sport,” “I wouldn’t put them in it if they didn’t love it,” “they just want to play with their friends.” etc. etc. What it really is, is pressure on parents to provide every possible opportunity for their kid and an added fear that if they don’t, they are robbing them of a future as a professional hockey player, soccer star or gymnast…don’t forget artist, pianist and ninja warrior- sometimes all of the above and more. What messages I feel more parents need to hear is this…it’s ok to slow things down. It’s really freaking ok for you to take some time to catch up on laundry, go to the movies with your kids, or go for a walk together. I just pulled my daughters from their last term in dance because I wanted a break from the busy. Did I feel guilty initially? Yes. Did they like it when they went? Mostly just for the sucker their lovely teacher gave them afterwards. Do I regret it? Sometimes yes I do feel that mom guilt voice creeping in to my head, but then I think of our “family sits,” and I feel better. I promise if your child is meant to be a star in their craft that they still will be. Climbing trees is actually excellent off-season training for everything in life. I also promise that if they act mad at you when you tell them that its break season, they will get over it. I also promise that the memories you make with them in your down time will last with them for the rest of all of your lives, even if you don’t know it at the time. You know what else?? You will have moments to look after your own energy and guess who else is going to benefit from that?
As an adult who played a lot of sports as a child, one of my absolute favorite childhood memories was when my parents would take my brother and I canoeing and at the end of the trip, they let us tip the canoe. I think that’s pretty cool. I want to make those kinds of memories with my kids too. Balance and boundaries are big words. I’m not sure you can ever be balanced as a parent, but I do know at the end of the day, you can set boundaries to protect your time. It’s your call. Your not a bad parent for looking for that. It really actually feels kind of empowering to say “no, you need a break and so do I.”