Extra Extra(curriculars)

Growing up in a small town, our options for extracurricular activities was limited. For sports, we had swimming, soccer, hockey, karate, and t-ball/baseball, and for arts we were essentially limited to piano lessons. While the choices were few, the turnout was always amazing and generally successful.

For me, in the spring it was t-ball when I was the youngest, which transitioned over to soccer, plus piano lessons until I was about 14. Swimming lessons in the summer were a must until I was old enough to tread water for 2 minutes and go to the pool unsupervised.

Flash waaaaay forward to the present, and we now live in a decent-sized city with so many options, it’s almost overwhelming. From dance to football, horseback riding to hockey, the choices are endless when it comes to picking an extracurricular activity for your kids to take part in.

Aside from perhaps learning how to swim, I’m a firm believer that kids shouldn’t be forced into an extracurricular they don’t want to do. Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean I don’t think they should do nothing at all. Kids should have the opportunity to at least try as many things as they want to see if they like it before diving in head first. A lot of activities are EXPENSIVE, and it’s the worst feeling ever when you invest in gear and uniforms or costumes only to discover that your kid shows little interest a month in.

It’s easy to want to throw your kids into every activity your schedule will allow, especially when you start to get nostalgic about your own passions growing up. (Or even your current ones, for that matter.) But I beg to ask: Is throwing a child into every activity their schedule allow a good thing to do? I often wonder how many of these activities kids actually enjoy doing versus what they’re doing because their parents want them to do something, you know what I mean? Is little Suzy in figure skating because she saw Tessa Virtue at the Olympics and fell in love with the twirling and wants to be like her, or is it because her mom competed a few times growing up and wants to live vicariously through her, even though Suzy doesn’t show much interest?

I’m totally not trying to judge those moms either. I had my oldest try t-ball and my youngest try soccer, but neither of them really showed any passion for what they were taking part in. I ultimately decided to just observe what they like doing while at home and direct that energy into a suitable after school activity. For my oldest the choice was clearly dance, and my youngest now lives for “ninja school.” (Think American Ninja Warrior!)

I’m also a firm believer in choices – and that’s not necessarily letting them choose to do everything. Kids, especially when they’re young, burn out SO fast. Having them in activities three or four days a week can be exhausting, so choosing something that only consumes one or two days a week is something I strongly believe in.

For example, currently in our house each of my daughters is in one extracurricular per week. Sometimes they’re in two each when we do swimming lessons (a must until they can stay afloat on their own), but for us, one activity is enough. Last summer, when my oldest found out her best friend was going to take up gymnastics instead of dance, she asked if she could do gymnastics as well. Now, she LOVES dance, but if she wanted to switch to gymnastics I would’ve let her. However, knowing how much she loves dance, I told her that she could do gymnastics, but it meant she wouldn’t be able to do dance anymore. She thought about it briefly, but opted to stick with what she knows she loves.

I know it might make me sound like a bit of a party pooper, not letting my kids do everything they want to, but I know that we’d slowly become overwhelmed and exhausted by running all over town to every activity. There are plenty of families who do a variety of different activities during the week, and sometimes they have more kids than we do, so I have to give them major kudos on managing it. At the same time though, are you afraid of burning out? What will do you if/when it happens?

So let’s discuss, friends! What kind of rules/regulations do you have when it comes to your child(ren)’s activities? (Of if you’re not there yet, what do you envision?) I’m genuinely curious!

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Race Recap: Dirty Feet Trail Race #1

It was an amazing day for the first trail race of the year on Sunday! The North Face Dirty Feet Trail Race #1 took place in the beautiful grasslands of Kamloops and I was pumped to get going!

After dropping the girls (and dog) off at my mom’s I headed over to the shuttle location to hitch a ride up to the start/finish line. The energy was great on the bus and thankfully it was a short trip as I don’t think I could’ve handled going a long way down that road without Gravol …

Anyway! After I got checked in I had quite a bit of time to kill before the 5K runners departed. We cheered on the half-marathon runners who came through and I caved and ended up buying a Dirty Feet hat for future runs. I ended up chatting with an acquaintance and I ended up running with him a bit during the race.

The views around the 2km mark were ridiculous, let me tell yah!

Overall, I felt just “okay” during the race! I definitely didn’t train enough for hills and got a little too ambitious off the start; I ended up powering out a little after the first kilometre and had to dial things back a bit, but I managed okay! There was definitely zero gas left in the tank when I finished, haha.

I also like to see what shapes I see in the course. This one looks a bit like an upside down & backwards North Carolina, I think…

My official time was clocked at 31:58, so I’m pretty content with that, all things considered! I stuck around for door prizes and managed to have my number called, so I chose a pretty awesome shirt, and then it was time to walk hobble up to the bus to get back to my truck.

8,000 levels of sweat!

Oh, and an added bonus? Zero ticks hitched a ride on me during the race! Seriously, I was more concerned about ticks than the difficulty of the trail!

As always, a huge shout-out to Phil, Grace, and the whole Dirty Feet crew for an awesome race!

What I’m Reading: Brother

From the book jacket:

An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991. 

With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home. 

Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry — teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves. 

Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael’s dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.

With devastating emotional force David Chariandy, a unique and exciting voice in Canadian literature, crafts a heartbreaking and timely story about the profound love that exists between brothers and the senseless loss of lives cut short with the shot of a gun.

My review:

This novella received a lot of rave reviews on Goodreads, but I personally wasn’t quite as captivated by it as most other readers were. That’s not to say that I didn’t find the message to be important, it still is and is very relevant to this day.

It’s disappointing to know that even though this story takes place in the early 90’s, the issues that society was facing then are still happening now. If anything, Brother is an important read to remember the struggles people face when they don’t quite fit in, even in Canada where we’re hailed as being an all-accepting country. Racism is very much a real thing here.

I truly felt for Francis and Michael, with Francis being thrown into becoming the man of the house at such a young age, and Michael still trying to just be a kid but also gain respect amongst his peers. Perhaps the reason though for my lower rating for Brother is because I desperately wanted more.

On the other hand, I wonder if Chariandy purposely made this a quick read that had brief subplots to reflect what happens in reality. Not every avenue pans out in real life; there are a lot of situations where “that’s that” and you don’t get to elaborate or know more. Either way, I still think Brothers is a decent quick read.

My rating: ★★★½/5