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!

“This is just a drill”

How did your lockdown drill go today, kiddo?’
‘It was OK, but I just don’t like doing them.’

On Saturday, March 24, thousands, if not millions, of students and their supporters marched and took a stand against gun violence. I’ve been contemplating airing my thoughts on this topic for quite some time but have never been able to put everything together in a cohesive manner. So, while this post may be a bit of a jumbled mess, I think it’s still an important matter to address as a parent …

Never did I think growing up that there would be more than just fire drills at school. What has happened to society where it is required for students of all ages to practice lockdown drills as well?

The quote at the top of this post is actually an exchange between Isla and I, about a month ago when her school had their second lockdown drill of the year. I can understand why a 5-year old wouldn’t like doing the drills, and I have to give her teacher so much credit for being able to calm the imaginative minds of 20 kindergarteners during these drills. When I asked Isla what she thought of them, she said, “It makes me feel like there’s a savage animal in the school…” It’s a sad truth when it happens for real.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to explain to children why they need to have these drills to begin with. Once upon a time, fire drills were the only thing we were required to practice two or three times a school year “just in case.” To now have to practice being quiet and pretending your classroom is empty incase there’s a “savage animal” in the school that wants to hurt you … it’s just heartbreaking.

It hurts that society has come to a place where these drills have to happen, and so, so many things need to change before our children can go back to just practicing fire drills. There needs to be more than just finger pointing to stop these tragic events from reoccurring. How many more people need to die before the US government goes, “Okay, enough is enough?” Lives matter more than centuries-old amendments.

I hope that one day my daughter won’t have to do lockdown drills and that she can go back to not liking normal things, like roasted broccoli and cleaning her room. That one day she doesn’t have to worry about savage animals running through the halls at the school. That one day we can go back to just having fire drills.

One day needs to come soon.

Spring Break Goals

While there may still be s buttload of snow kicking around, the first day of spring is technically tomorrow (March 20) and Spring Break starts today!

Our school district decided (thankfully!) to switch back to Spring Break being only one week instead of two; why on earth they thought parents would be okay with two weeks off is beyond me, but that’s neither here nor there for me. I’m lucky enough to not be working while Isla’s off school, but that doesn’t mean I plan on sitting around at home and letting her watch TV and play on the iPad until she’s a vegetable.

I’ve put together a list of things I’d love to be able to accomplish with the girls while we have the week off together:

  1. Go out for breakfast. I’m thinking I’ll be “mean” just one morning and make Isla wake up as if she’s going to school, only to take her and Norah out for breakfast. While dining out with two kids is probably going to be a regrettable life choice for me, it will be a nice treat!
  2. Unplug & Play. Chapters-Indigo is hosting fun, free events all throughout Spring Break, so I may take the girls down to our local store to partake in one of them. I’m thinking the Unplug & Play one featuring Play-Doh will be great for both girls, and then maybe after that’s done I’ll let them pick out a new book to buy.
  3. Play dates. Isla has been BEGGING me to set up playdates with various friends from school and dance, so if I don’t follow through I’ll never hear the end of it.
  4. Dollar Store adventures. Is there anything better than Dollar Store crafts? I think not! There’s tons of options for the girls to choose from and can easily occupy them for an afternoon. And? THEY’RE A DOLLAR. I mean, come on!
  5. Movies. We’ve been watching the same movies on repeat for a while now, so I’m thinking I may treat the girls to a movie they’ve never seen and we’ll cozy up on the couch with some popcorn one afternoon.
  6. Jump 360. This is probably the best place ever to take the girls to burn off energy for a couple of hours. They have a couple chunks of time set aside for just kids 5 and under so I don’t have to worry about them getting hurt by some older kid not paying attention.
  7. CookingFor whatever reason, Isla has taken an interest in making dinner. I let her help a couple weekends ago and she was pretty dang proud of herself, so I thought I’d maybe let her help plan dinner for a couple of her days off.

I have no idea how much of that we’ll actually accomplish, or what else we may get up to during the week, but I’m looking forward to Isla being able to recharge a little bit before getting back to a busy schedule next week.

What are your plans for Spring Break?