So many to pursue, so little time. Don’t be fooled: The proliferation of activity options for children reflects our cultural affluence, not our child’s need to be well rounded or socialized.
Gobs of money are being made off of our misplaced desire to expose our kids to every possible talent path. How can we choose activities for our family in a way that doesn’t compromise Sabbath principles?
Because the four Wilkin kids are close in age, our schedule and finances forced us to limit activities to “one or none” for each child. Not all families need to impose a limit this low, but we have relearned something our grandparents probably knew: Children who participate in no organized activities at all still lead lives full of activity and joy.
To many parents, the idea of a child on no sports team, in no music lessons, at no club meetings is completely foreign and a little frightening. Won’t they get bored? Won’t they drive me crazy lurking around the house? Won’t they miss out on an NFL career and blame me? Or, my personal favorite: Won’t other parents think I’m a bad parent?
I would answer all of these questions, “Maybe, but who cares?”
As is often lamented, parenting is not a popularity contest. With that in mind, here are some good (and highly unpopular) questions to ask when evaluating which activity to pursue:
1. Does it sabotage weekend downtime or worship?
2. Does it sabotage family dinners?
3. Does it sabotage bedtime?
4. Does it pull our family apart or push us together?
5. Is it an activity my child can enjoy/benefit from into adulthood?
6. Can we afford it?
Notice that, “Does my child enjoy it?” is not on the list.
So often, I hear parents justify keeping a child in a time-sucking activity because, “He loves it so much.” Kids love Skittles and Mario Kart so much, but they don’t get to decide if, when and how much to consume. Because children possess a limited range of life experience, it is difficult for them to conceive of happiness outside their current circumstance. It is our job to help them learn.