Friday, July 17, 2009

When activities have served their purpose

Wow, I think it's a record for 2009 - three posts in a week!

I thought I'd hop down off my soapbox about activities today with a final thought.

d. The Sunset Review. If you are from Texas, you will be familiar with this. The Sunset Commission was created to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies.

I love this from their website:
The Commission questions the need for each agency, looks for potential duplication of other public services or programs, and considers new and innovative changes to improve each agency's operations and activities....

In most cases, agencies under Sunset review are AUTOMATICALLY abolished unless legislation is enacted to continue them.

(my emphasis)

Every family needs to have its own Sunset Commission. Just like the government, sometimes we don't see our own waste, duplication or inefficiency. Instead of reviewing activities each season, we keep piling on more and more new ones. This is bad for all families, but particularly for those of us with lots of kids, this leads - quite quickly - to exponential schedule overload.

Our family (despite all our careful planning) is not immune to this. Dennis has helped coach Libby-11's softball team for six years. It all started quite innocently when a bunch of kindergarten dads got together and thought it would be "fun" to coach their daughters. Fall and spring, without fail, Libby has played. She loved it, learned the sport, and became quite a good little first baseman. She would always tell you she considered softball to be "her sport."

Suddenly this summer, when presented the opportunity to play again in the fall, she fell apart. "I'm sick of softball!" What?? But it's your favorite sport! For weeks we discussed this, and the answer was always the same: "I just want a break!"

Then there was something under her breath about liking basketball better. What? And Dad isn't even the coach?

Alrighty then. Do we, because we have "always" done it (because she is good at it, because Dad is a coach, because she might "get behind" the other girls, or even because the team "needs" get the idea) force our child to continue?

Or has the purpose of elementary rec-league softball been accomplished? Okay, let's see, what WAS the purpose, anyway? Was it to become a professional softball player? Or was it to learn the sport, to learn to play with a team...oh, and to HAVE FUN?

Perhaps the purpose was to discover that this isn't my child's favorite sport, after all?

Yep, it's hard to believe, but for the moment, softball - a "given" in our lives for six years - is being abolished after its Raising Five Family Sunset Review.

Okay, enough rambling.

How do y'all decide when an activity has served its purpose?

On looking like a circus act (Activities, Part 1)
On fear and being out of control (Activities, Part 2)


E. Tyler Rowan said...

We're just entering the years of activities, so the few my kids have been in are short-term and have served their purpose once the session is done. Our goal is for our kids to try a couple things and see what they like, so that as they get older there are only one or two that we stick with.

We've tried dance, gymnastics, soccer, theatre, and art - each once. We've done soapbox racing twice. And of course swimming, but that's mandatory life-or-death training. They don't get to choose about swimming. (And our one darling girl who refused to participate in gymnastics - bye-bye $135 - well, she won't be trying it again for a couple years. LOL!)

Beth said...

We had only one rule I can remember: if you sign up for an activity (and they picked what they wanted...not us), you have to finish the season. They got to try alot of things, both of our older kids settled on soccer and played on club teams. When it came to changing direction, we did a better job with our daughter. Our son tried to tell us 2 yr in a row that he didnt' want to play soccer anymore. It was a case of we were not ready for him to change sports...and he didn't tell us loud enough. I think hearing that she would like to try a different sport is no reflection on your husband's coaching/ participation. Our daughter, after YEARS Of club/high school soccer, decided to play softball her last sememster of high school. She knew she would not get the chance to play softball in college, and wanted to give it a try. She made the high school team, and started most all the games. She had a BLAST! Your husband might enjoy a break from coaching too...or choose to help with a different child's team. We are waiting for the youngest to decide what he is interested in...right now he wants to play EVERYTHING AT ONCE! I'm not buying THAT! HA!

Faerylandmom said...

I just finished reading all three of your activities posts, and you have said so succinctly exactly what we are trying to do with our kids (four of them, ages 6 down to almost 2).

Thanks for the encouraging word that it CAN be done, and done well. I have just resigned myself to the fact that life is about to get busier for us, but we too, are not doing any "organized, outside" activities until our kids are at least 6 or 7.

Except swimming lessons.

mholgate said...

Katherine, thanks for taking your time on this topic. :) It's been very helpful to read through all the comments. It has given me lots to think about. I am going to discuss it with my DH and come up with a plan for some rules that will help us avoid "schedule suicide." :)

You're awesome!

El Shaddai Ranch said...

I haven't figured this out yet...I'd be curious to hear others' responses as to how they decide when it's ok to stop.

We are dealing w/ this and my son's 11-12 year old baseball team.

Makila said...

Thank you so much for these posts about family activities, looking like a circus, etc. With a 6 1/2 year old (boy), 4 year old (girl) and 16 month (girl) and ONE ON THE WAY...I know about the stares we get just going to dinner with 3 kids, let alone 4! :) We're also starting to try different activities and trying to find balance, etc. I know some moments will be easier than other moments but I'm so glad to know you're surviving it all. :) I appreciate all your posts...about everything. Thanks Katherine! So glad your Allie made it home!

Sarah said...

I so love the times when I find my way over to your blog to catch up on your posts. What a blessing it was to read this series of posts on activities. I know it will be a challenge and appreciate your wisdom. You've been where we're heading and I love learning from somebody like you! Thank you!

Peapod Four said...

These are great posts! I'm always learning something from you. : )

Over the last two years or so I've become very particular about how much and when our family gets involved in activities. My oldest is only 6, but my husband is a part time music minister and that leads to all kinds of evening/weekend commitments. We just about burned flat out a few years ago trying to do and be everything. Now, if I volunteer for something, it has a beginning and an end - because my first priority has to be as mom. We also evaluate Brenna's (6) activities after every 'season'. We dropped soccer even though she really enjoyed it, because she doesn't have an aggressive bone in her body. Instead, she's taking dance. She loves it and, although I know nothing about it, I can see how much she's flourishing and learning in the classes.

Finding that careful balance makes for such a more peaceful home!!