Parenting Blog

Let Kids Be Kids

We’ve all heard this, right?  Another parent or some random, judgmental prick bystander slings this darling of a phrase at you in the mall, at a playground, down the corn syrup aisle of the grocery store, during a family function (hello!).

So what in the hell does this mean? What is it to “be a kid” exactly?  Is it staring at a video game and regurgitating Spongebob quotes? Whining for happy meals and sneakers that blink?  Being shuffled from one adult-organized & led activity to another?

I have an idea, but not an exact one, about what these *others* have in mind regarding the essence of the childhood experience.  And isn’t that what they’re intentionally not defining when they say “let kids be kids”, while also stating with clairvoyance that you are denying your child it?

I’ll tell you what I think is a path to a craptastic childhood: non-stop Mommy and Me classes, basketball practices, karate classes, girl scout meetings, and whatever else has a sign up sheet and a registration fee.  We like to convince ourselves that all of that stuff will make our kids smarter, more social, and more well-rounded.  And shhhh don’t tell anyone, but I think some of us parents overschedule our children to ensure that our family’s, and tangentially our own, social status stays in high regard in the neighborhood or ’round the rec center.  Sound like someone you know?  If you live in America in 2011, probably.   The official trade off for the extreme extracurricular seems to be a lack of downtime, family meals, & conversation; three things I’m kinda fond of.  I mean, doesn’t anyone stop to think about, or read the countless studies conducted regarding, the importance of family dinner?  I don’t really know about all of that constant running around; I don’t play those kind of games, but from what I’ve witnessed the relentless go-go-go-ing leaves kids scatterbrained, tired and transient.  I’ve seen this hectic lifestyle have the same effect on the adults in the equation too.  Y’all just get freakin’ nuts.


We’re in the process of organizing our Fall calendar and while we’ve intentionally never had a lot of pre-scheduled, organized activities on our iCal, the Bear eagerly wishes to take piano lessons and a dance class.  She’s also open to intramural soccer at school (my little Messi? umm, probably not).  I’m kinda in a place where I’ve gotta let her try it all.  This is for two reasons: 1) She has spent 7.5 years being hyper-reluctant to enter into anything new, and 2) because this Fall comes after this summer, when the Mrs. and I promised that she’d be able to take a 2-nights-a-week-for-4-weeks figure skating lesson.  That never happened because, mostly, I was super lazy and never connected the dots.

The Mouse would like to get back to her weekday morning gymnastics class in September.  This one is easy, but also the most expensive of the three.

Our plan to do it all without feeling like we’re doing it all goes as follows: we’ll run a 6-week jazz/tap class and the 1/2 hour per week piano gig back-to-back instead of concurrently.  If she gets picked for soccer (it’s a lottery, and only 1.25 hours on Tuesday nights right after school) that will make 2 after-school commitments per week throughout the Autumn.  That shouldn’t be too much for her to juggle with homework while still allowing me to make dinners each evening and us to sit down together as a family.  The Mouse will take her 1 hour gym romp every Wednesday morning.  That’ll give me an extra hour to waste on Twitter work and won’t interfere with homelife or mealtime.

At some point, hard decisions will need to be made for monetary and/or time commitment reasons.  This won’t be an issue for us.  Saying NO to things is healthy, and more importantly, necessary.  I don’t mind the tears.  They’ll get over it.  Kids need to know that a gigantic part of life is picking one thing over another; toy, activity, party, car, house, spouse.  And so on.  No one can – or should – do or have it all, especially not a child.  I think we all know a few families who need to be given this memo.


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