Parents, it’s ok if you don’t want your kids to do all the things, to be involved in three sports every season plus learn to play a musical instrument. It’s ok not to enroll your three-year-old in ballet and gymnastics and ninja courses. It’s ok to enjoy them at home while they are young, to go camping and hiking instead of swim team every Saturday morning, or to choose family activities over Sunday sports.
I grew up playing sports and there are many, many good aspects to engaging in competition, either within a team or individual. Sports does build character, discipline, and helps to create healthy habits. They offer lessons on how to lose gracefully, how to practice if you want to improve, how to work with others and be a resourceful and respectful leader. And that’s only the beginning.
The benefits of being involved in sports are numerous. However, declining to be involved in sports doesn’t mean kids won’t learn those same lessons. And being so deeply involved in sports means other things in life will need to give – and as parents, are we willing to make that trade?
My opinion stems from my own sporting experiences
My kids are relatively young, only 10 and 6, and I’ve only ever signed them up for an hour of gymnastics a week. Even that was hard to get to with my work schedule. It was a blast to watch them though. We also do Scouts, which is less of a commitment and more of a fun activity that we can do in places we already visit like parks, hiking trails, lakes, and campgrounds. Now we don’t even do gymnastics because we are having too much fun doing other, non-sports related things.
When I played competitive basketball in high school, my entire family would travel to tournaments and my poor brothers would sit in the stands, bored out of their minds, watching the games. My parents valued our family time together but they also knew I was a talented basketball player and did everything they could to support me. We would even tailgate in the parking lot much to the dismay of my teenage self, who was embarrassed beyond belief. But eating out after paying for travel and lodging and tournament fees was expensive.
My family gave up a lot for my dreams, which I ultimately discarded to the dismay of my parents. They sacrificed immensely so I could play competitive sports and while they tried to incorporate our whole family, they had to give up a lot of time together. My brothers did as well. They were runners so their travel was much less than mine but they didn’t get left out thankfully.
When it comes to my own kids, I feel myself swinging in the complete opposite direction of my own upbringing, shunning any kind of organized sports in favor of more time with them on my own terms. I cannot imagine giving up our weekends of adventure to sit on a field or in a gym for games.
Sports are a huge time commitment
I have seen and known parents who sign their toddler up for two or three sporting activities a season, which makes for a hectic week and hardly any downtime. Does a toddler really need to do gymnastics, soccer, and t-ball? And sports aren’t cheap. There are the signup fees, uniform costs, travel costs, gas, lodging, and extensive time commitments.
I was curious about our local swim team a couple summers ago and went to an informational meeting only to find out that practices were twice a day on some days and then meets were on Saturday mornings. I walked out and never looked back.
As a working mom, weekends are worth everything to me. Those are the times when I finally get to be free of commitments and focus solely on my kids. We are huge lovers of the outdoors and live in an area of the country where there are no shortages of hiking trails, lakes for paddleboarding and kayaking, and miles of coastlines for exploring. We have an awesome time together on weekends and my kids have a lot of confidence in handling basic outdoor skills. They love books and exploring and learning new things. They love swimming at waterfalls or finding wildflowers they haven’t seen before.
They have grown in confidence and are learning excellent life lessons in the process. I’m not willing to give that up for a long time.
Maybe later. But not now.
I grew up playing sports. My husband was a professional soccer player and now coaches competitively. We get asked all the time if our kids will play soccer. I try not to cringe but say they aren’t really interested, at least not yet. They really aren’t. My youngest did Soccer Shots for a couple months in preschool and she didn’t ask to continue. But honestly, it’s mostly me. I’m not interested. At least for now. I don’t want to enter that rat race of carpooling and late dinners and no free time on weekends. My life is crazy enough and I don’t think I could handle anything else right now. Maybe later. But not now.
My family and husband all tell me there is so much fun to be had cheering on your kids at a game. I don’t doubt this for a second. My parents certainly enjoyed it. They made every effort to watch all the games I played in and races I (and my brothers) ran. It was addicting and fun and great memories. Maybe later that will happen for me. But not now.
Are my kids missing out on lifelong lessons they would learn in sports? Maybe. But I can tell you they are learning plenty of life lessons with my husband and I and our family that they see often. Not everything important needs to be learned in a sport.
And I’m a better mother because they aren’t involved in sports right now. I’m not completely exhausted from driving them everywhere and trying to do all the things I need to get done in the short time I have to do them. I’m not stressed about them missing practices or games because a conference call ran late or I need to travel for work. I’m plenty stressed about other things but thankfully not anything related to sports.
It’s ok to not do all the things
If you are a parent whose kid does all the things, that’s great. I’m not trying to tear you down by sharing my own thoughts and experiences. You cheer on your kid(s) and do your thing.
For the parents who are hesitating for one reason or another, it’s ok to not have your kids do all the things. I don’t think your toddler is going to notice one way or another if he/she isn’t doing a dance class by the time they are four years old.
Being a parent is incredibly difficult and you already have enough concerns than trying to keep up with anyone else and signing your kids up for sports. If they want to try it and you have the time and can afford it and not lose your mind, go for it. Or if you want to hang onto them just a little longer while they still think you are the center of their universe, then that’s totally fine, too.