note from Jessica: Thanks to my cousin (and repeat contributor!) Sheila Carlberg for sharing her wisdom here. I think she is spot on!
Recently I realized I had had enough. I was done with shoving Chick-fil-A sandwiches into my kids and rushing to get to the next thing.
The American “Do it all! Be the best!” mentality has created A PARENTING NIGHTMARE of daily activities, competitions, travel teams, clubs and cliques. Rarely do you see the neighborhood children outside playing together in the mud, riding their bikes, building forts or playing “sandlot” ball at the park. Those days of unbridled, unstructured fun are long gone. Our kids now have professional coaches, trainers, instructors, tutors, endless summer camps, weekend games, birthday parties and a whole lot else.
What they really need?
Downtime helps children relax and recharge. It is during downtime that your children learn to structure play and direct themselves. Without downtime, they are at a loss of what to do with themselves when they aren’t being stimulated. “Children need to be given time for their work, and play is their work.” Laura Markham, PhD, a child Psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting.
When you look back on this fleeting time with your children, what are going to be the things that matter most? The travel team you added to your schedule, or the weekend spent hiking in the woods as a family? Don’t get me wrong – I’m insanely competitive and LOVE sports and activities, but our poor children are being pushed to do SO much at an early age.
I’m officially over it.
“Since 1955 children’s free play has been continually declining, at least partly because adults have exerted ever-increasing control over children’s activities” says Peter Gray, Professor of Psychology at Boston College.
Gray describes this kind of unstructured, free play as a testing ground for life, providing critical life experiences which develop confident, competent adults. Gray’s words hit me like a ton of bricks as I thought about what I had drug my poor second-grade son through this fall with his competitive soccer team.
“As a society, we have come to the conclusion that to protect children from danger and to educate them, we must deprive them of the very activity that makes them happiest and place them for ever more hours in settings where they are more or less continually evaluated by adults, a setting almost designed to produce anxiety and depression.”
So what am I doing about it?
For one thing, we quit soccer, half-way through the year-long season.
We had a bonfire on the night of our last practice and went for a family bike ride the weekend of the big tournament. We spend Sundays practicing baseball as a family with my dad and nephew Sandlot style – no pressure, just fun. My stressed out, always on-edge son is finally starting to climb down off the ledge and be happier and more relaxed. I love sports and competition, but I love him more and I was literally driving him crazy with the pressure and madness of it all.
Join me, mamas.
Say no to the rush. Your babies need you. And they need to breathe. They have the rest of their lives to conquer the world. Let them be little.
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